April 16, 2024

Jordan demands answers from Wray after leaked FBI memo suggests agency may be targeting Catholics

EXCLUSIVE: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan is demanding answers from FBI Director Christopher Wray as part of the panel’s investigation into the bureau’s alleged misuse of domestic violent extremism resources for “political purposes,” after a leaked internal memo revealed the FBI had efforts underway to identify and treat some Catholics as violent extremists.

In a letter to Wray obtained exclusively by Fox News Digital, Jordan demanded that the FBI turn over documents and records related to a Jan. 23, 2023 document from the FBI’s Richmond Field Office that linked “‘racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists’ with a β€˜radical-traditionalist Catholic’ ideology.”

“The Committee on the Judiciary is continuing to examine the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s handling of domestic violent extremism [DVE] investigations,” Jordan wrote. The top Republican on the House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government, Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., also signed onto the letter.

Jordan said he and committee Republicans have written to the FBI “several times” over the last year about “startling allegations that the FBI is misusing DVE resources for apparent political purposes.”

Since then, Jordan said new information has become public about the FBI’s “targeting of a set of Catholic Americans for their religious beliefs” β€” specifically referencing the Jan. 23 memo, which was leaked by a whistleblower earlier this month.

PURPORTED FBI DOCUMENT SUGGESTS AGENCY MAY BE TARGETING CATHOLICS WHO ATTEND LATIN MASS

“In this document, the FBI purported to distinguish what it called β€˜traditional Catholics’ from the disfavored RTC [radical-traditionalist Catholic] adherents, who the FBI characterized as embracing β€˜anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, and white supremacist ideology,” Jordan wrote. He added that the FBI “even identified certain public policy issues β€” such as immigration and life issues β€” that it believed would β€˜catalyze’ RTC adherents.”

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Jordan said the memo not only attempts to “separate and categorize Catholic Americans based on theological distinctions,” but said the FBI “underscored the political nature of its actions.”

The memo stated that “FBI Richmond assesses RMVE [racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists] interest in RTCs is likely to increase over the next 12 or 24 months in the run-up to the next general election cycle.”

Jordan said the FBI’s document cites “biased and partisan sources, including the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Salon, and The Atlantic, to support its assessment.”

Jordan said the SPLC “identifies the broad term β€˜Christian identity’ as a hate group β€” a term that could arguably encompass millions of Americans with sincerely held religious beliefs.”

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“The fact that the FBI would blindly accept and regurgitate the SPLC’s spin is highly concerning and undercuts the FBI’s assertion that it is unbiased and politically neutral,” Jordan wrote.

The FBI ultimately withdrew the document and blamed the local level Richmond Field Office for its creation and dissemination, but Jordan is demanding answers on the genesis of the document, review, and approval of it, as well as the FBI’s “commitment to upholding First Amendment protected activity.”

After the leak of the memo this month, the FBI told Fox News Digital that the bureau’s “standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products,” but said “thisΒ particularΒ field office product – disseminatedΒ only within the FBI – regarding racially or ethnically motivatedΒ violentΒ extremismΒ does not meet the exacting standards ofΒ the FBI.”

“Upon learning of the document, FBI Headquarters quickly began taking action to remove the document from FBI systems and conduct a review of the basis for the document,” the FBI said.

The FBI added that the bureau “is committed to sound analytic tradecraft and toΒ investigating and preventing acts of violence and other crimes whileΒ upholding the constitutional rights of all Americans and will never conduct investigative activities or open an investigation based solely on First Amendment protected activity.”

Nonetheless, Jordan is demanding the FBI produce all documents and communications referring to or relating to intelligence products about “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists” and “radical-traditionalist Catholics” from Jan. 20, 2021 to the present.

Jordan is also demanding all documents and communications related to the basis for the Jan. 23 memo, titled “Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremist Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities.”

ATTACKS AGAINST CATHOLIC CHURCHES APPROACH 300 INCIDENTS SINCE MAY 2020: REPORT

Jordan demanded the FBI produce a list of its investigations that the Richmond Field Office “relied upon to make its assessment” to include in the document, as well as a list of the FBI employees involved in the drafting, reviewing, approving or disseminating of it. He asked that the FBI provide the information by March 2 at 5:00 p.m.

“We remind you that whistleblower disclosures are protected by law and that we will not tolerate any effort to retaliate against whistleblowers for their disclosures,” Jordan added.

Hundreds of Roman Catholic churches have been attacked since May 2020, according to Catholic nonprofit CatholicVote. More than 100 attacks have been reported since the May 2022 leak of the draft Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade’s federal abortion protections.

The FBI told Fox News Digital last month that the bureau is “continuing to investigate a series of attacks and threats targeting pregnancy resource centers, faith-based organizations, and reproductive health clinics across the country, as well as to judicial buildings, including the U.S. Supreme Court.”

“The incidents are being investigated as potential acts of domestic violent extremism, FACE Act violations, or violent crime matters, depending on the facts of each case,” the FBI said. “The FBI takes all violence and threats of violence very seriously, and we are working closely with our law enforcement partners at the national, state, and local levels to investigate these incidents.”

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