Sen. Grassley Says ‘Things Aren’t Right With the FBI’ but Opposes GOP Calls to Shut It Down

Sen. Chuck Grassley opposes calls to shut down the FBI though he admits ’things aren’t right with the FBI.’
Sen. Grassley Says ‘Things Aren’t Right With the FBI’ but Opposes GOP Calls to Shut It Down
Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) speaks during a committee business meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 28, 2022. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo)
Tom Ozimek

Amid scorching GOP criticism of the FBI over undue politicization—including outright calls to shut down the agency and rebuild it from scratch—one Republican senator is telling his party colleagues to cool it.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was asked in a Sept. 15 interview on an Iowa Public Broadcasting Service program what he thinks about Republican criticism of the federal law enforcement agency, with calls ranging from reducing funding to ones demanding the FBI’s complete dissolution.

Notably, presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has repeatedly called for the FBI to be shut down and has unveiled a plan in July to dismantle the agency in his first year in office as part of a broader thrust to take an axe to the tentacles of the regulatory state.
More recently, Mr. Ramaswamy said in a Sept. 13 speech at the America First Policy Institute, which included a detailed plan to cut the federal employee headcount by 75 percent during his first term, that he would shut down the FBI and move some of its staff to the U.S. Marshals and some other agencies.

Asked to respond to calls by Mr. Ramaswamy and others to either defund or dismantle the FBI, Mr. Grassley said: “Anybody that takes that position is stupid for saying it.”

“We’ve got to have an FBI,” the Republican senator added.

Mr. Ramaswamy’s campaign did not return a request for comment on Mr. Grassley’s remarks.

The FBI did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

‘You Can’t Defund the FBI’

Mr. Grassley said in the interview that, for several years now, Republicans have been “making fun of the Democrats wanting to defund the police.”

Democrat calls to defund the police swelled into a nationwide drumbeat after the death of George Floyd in 2020 but later quieted down or even backtracked in some places like Seattle after a spike in crime.

“It’s the same thing,” Mr. Grassley said of his Republican colleagues making demands to pull funding from the FBI. “You can’t defund. We don’t want to defund the police. You can’t defund the FBI.”

Later in the interview, Mr. Grassley made clear he thinks criticism of the FBI is warranted.

“I want to follow up and say that obviously, things aren’t right with the FBI, from my point of view,” Mr. Grassley said.

“But you don’t defund the FBI to make that point, you reform the FBI.”

Mr. Grassley’s remarks came hot on the heels of Mr. Ramaswamy’s latest public appearance, in which he described plans to shut down not only the FBI but also the Department of Education (DOE), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

“This is just the beginning of the list of federal agencies that we will either shut down or downsize by 75 percent or more,” Mr. Ramaswamy said toward the end of his speech.

During an earlier interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Ramaswamy said that he does not want to “defund the FBI” but dissolve it and establish something else in its place.

“I didn’t say defund the FBI. I said shut down the FBI and replace it with something new,” Mr. Ramaswamy said at the time. “I think it’s a new apparatus built from scratch that actually respects the law instead of making it up.”

But Republican criticism of the FBI extends far beyond Mr. Ramaswamy and goes back further than the launch of his presidential campaign.

FBI in GOP Crosshairs

The FBI has faced repeated allegations of having become politicized in a number of cases, including claims of targeting parents protesting at school board meetings, using intimidation tactics against pro-life activists, or colluding with social media companies to censor Americans’ free speech ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
Allegations of FBI politicization got a boost in May 2023 following the release of a 306-page report (pdf) by special counsel John Durham on the origins of the FBI investigation of allegations that former President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russia.

According to Mr. Durham, the FBI rushed to open the initial investigation based on unvetted intelligence, and FBI personnel showed “at best, a cavalier attitude towards accuracy and completeness.”

In another example that cast the FBI in a questionable light, one of the Twitter Files installments described Twitter as having been turned into a “subsidiary” by the FBI, with email records detailing FBI pressure on the social media platform to censor posts.

“The master-canine quality of the FBI’s relationship to Twitter comes through in this November 2022 email, in which ‘FBI San Francisco is notifying you’ it wants action on four accounts,” investigative reporter Matt Taibbi wrote in a thread on X, in which he shared various internal Twitter records as part of Twitter Files 6.

Among these, Mr. Taibbi shared a screenshot of an email from the FBI asking for “any action or inaction deemed appropriate within Twitter policy” with respect to accounts that “may potentially constitute violations.”

Three of the four flagged accounts were suspended, with the one that was spared sometimes posting anti-Trump and blue-leaning content.

Asked about the allegations that it was putting the weight of its institutional heft on the political scales with such requests, the FBI told The Epoch Times via email that all it ever did was notify private sector entities about “foreign malign influence” but any action was taken independently by the companies.

Other Twitter Files disclosures shed light on Twitter’s blacklisting of some conservative accounts, internal deliberations on banning former President Donald Trump’s account, and the FBI’s alleged role in the suppression of a New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop.
The release of Twitter Files 6, which showed that the FBI’s engagement with Twitter (now X) appeared constant and pervasive, drew a flurry of critical takes from Republicans, some of whom vowed to take action.
“[The] FBI has a lot to answer for after the latest drop of Twitter Files 6,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said in a tweet. The GOP House Judiciary Committee account on Twitter asked in a post: “Does anyone still trust the FBI?”
Texas state Rep. Troy Nehls, a Republican and former sheriff, took to Twitter to say that the FBI would face a probe when the GOP assumed control of the House in several weeks.
“Republicans will investigate the FBI in January. I promise you that,” he said.
House Republicans would later go on to launch the Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government under the auspices of the House Judiciary Committee and take the FBI into their crosshairs.
Some of the “weaponization” committee’s probes include whistleblower revelations that the FBI had labeled investigations into parents with a threat tag created by the agency’s Counterterrorism Division, or evidence that multiple FBI offices coordinated to produce a memo targeting Catholics as potential domestic terrorists.
In light of the various reports and revelations about the FBI’s questionable actions, a growing number of Republicans have leveled criticism against the law enforcement agency.

Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) said at a recent press briefing: “We do not want to fund them at their current level. We want to send them a message that they obviously have too much money. They’re weaponized and using the taxpayers’ money against the taxpayers. We are done with that.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said in a letter to House Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-Texas) that he’s looking into using the appropriations process to pull some funding from the FBI.
“We control the power of the purse, and we’re going to have to look at the appropriation process and limit funds going to some of these agencies, particularly the ones who are engaged in the most egregious behavior,” Mr. Jordan elaborated in an interview with Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo on Sunday Morning Futures in April after being asked what his committee can do in response to the alleged “weaponization of government.”

Calls to defund or disband the FBI also got a boost after agents raided former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property and seized government records that the former president says he declassified.

“The FBI raid on Trump’s home tells us one thing. Failure is not an option,” Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) said in a post on X. “We must destroy the FBI. We must save America.”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) was one of the first to express her disapproval of the FBI raid, posting on X: “DEFUND THE FBI!” 
Tom Ozimek is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times. He has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education.
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