Special Counsel John Durham defended the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI amid a push by some Republicans to defund or limit funding for those agencies in response to their alleged "weaponization."
Durham appeared before Congress on June 21 to testify about the results of his report on the investigation into Donald Trump and his presidential campaign ahead of the 2016 election.
The special counsel's report concluded that the investigation was poorly founded, and should not have moved ahead in the manner that it did.
However, Durham's report referenced few reform proposals that had not already been adopted by the FBI under Director Christopher Wray, a fact that did not sit well with some Republicans.
While testifying to Congress, Durham dismissed a Republican push to defund the agencies as ill-advised.
"There are some folks here in Congress, colleagues of mine on the other side of the aisle who have talked about or indicated their desire to defund the Department of Justice," said Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) during the hearing.
"Do you believe the Department of Justice should be defunded?"
"I don't believe these discussions about defunding the police make any sense at all for the security of the nation and I don't think defunding Cornerstone law enforcement entities makes a whole lot of sense," Durham replied. "Maybe more oversight, but defunding our cities and streets and so forth—no, that doesn't make sense to me.
"But I've only been at this for 40 years," he joked.
Republican ConcernsDurham's comments came as many in the House GOP, having grown increasingly frustrated over a series of perceived abuses of power, have proposed either limiting or cutting funding for the agencies.
As justification for the calls, they have pointed to alleged DOJ and FBI abuses of power.
Whistleblower reports have trickled in since the 117th Congress alleging that the DOJ and FBI have been co-opted by partisan actors for political purposes.
Republican concerns with DOJ and FBI authorities came to a head following Attorney General Merrick Garland's memo dated Oct. 4, 2021, offering federal advice and assistance to prosecute parents who spoke out at school board meetings against contentious ideas of sexuality, gender, and race being taught to their children. This prompted concerns that the agency was challenging First Amendment protected behavior.
Other whistleblower allegations claim that the FBI created a “threat tag” to target pro-life individuals and organizations in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade, returning regulation of abortion to the states.
In September 2022, the FBI raided the home of Matthew Houck, a pro-life Catholic, allegedly for having obstructed access to an abortion provider.
Still other whistleblower claims backed by leaked documents revealed that the FBI has also targeted so-called “radical-traditionalist Catholics,” dubbing them “RTCs.” The documents accused traditional and Latin Mass Catholic communities of being a harbor for “white supremacism” and indicated that the FBI intended to place informants in these churches.
The FISA, which was used on tenuous grounds to spy on Trump associate Carter Page, has formed the backbone of a key Republican concern about DOJ and FBI conduct.
Calls to Cut, Defund AgenciesIn view of these allegations, a handful of Republicans have increasingly joined calls to force reforms by partly or entirely cutting the funding of these agencies.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has been one of the most outspoken proponents of using the power of the purse to bring the DOJ in line with congressional expectations.
“The conference as a whole is not going to reward the Department of Justice for targeting conservatives all over America,” Greene has told reporters.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said during a March 3 speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), “We either get this government back on our side, or we defund, and get rid of, abolish the FBI, CDC, ATF, DOJ, every last one of them, if they do not come to heel!"
“We ought to defund and dismantle the DOJ—I stand with President Trump," Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) has said.
"There's many of us that have vowed ... we're doing everything we can to defund the Department of Justice, to defund the FBI, and to fight the weaponized government," Greene said during that hearing.
“What our focus is right now, it’s appropriations,” she said. “Our power here in the House is the power of the purse. Appropriations are our tool to hold the weaponized government accountable. And that is what our focus is right now.”
But she acknowledged that Republicans would have a fight within their own party to use this tool.
“It’s going to be a fight,” Greene said. “We’re going to have some of our colleagues that are going to want us just to fund the Department of Justice, with no ramifications whatsoever. But we completely disagree with that. And we will be fighting that all the way. We’ll use our voting power, and we will be messaging and having as many conversations as we need to have.”
Greene added that she “[doesn’t] care” if it takes all summer.
"This is the most important battle we have,” she said. “American citizens are being treated worse than people that are invading our country with deadly fentanyl, human trafficking, sex trafficking, and trafficking children.”
Trump himself has given backing to these calls.
"REPUBLICANS IN CONGRESS SHOULD DEFUND THE DOJ AND FBI UNTIL THEY COME TO THEIR SENSES," Trump posted on Truth Social following his indictment on 37 federal counts of mishandling classified documents by DOJ Special Counsel Jack Smith.
However, as Greene herself acknowledged, these calls are relatively limited. While many other Republicans have expressed concerns about DOJ and FBI misconduct, the find defunding the agencies or cutting their funding is a bridge too far.