EXCLUSIVE: House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan is threatening to subpoena the former FBI official who has been accused by whistleblowers of ordering agents to classify cases as domestic violent extremism even if they did not meet standards for such, after she backed out of a scheduled transcribed interview before the panel Friday.
Jill Sanborn, the former executive assistant director of the FBI’s National Security Branch, had offered to sit for a transcribed interview with Jordan, R-Ohio, and Republicans on the committee to discuss the bureau’s focus and case work with regard to domestic violent extremism. The interview was set for Friday, Dec. 2.
Fox News has learned that Sanborn has decided not to testify voluntarily on Friday. Her attorney, Carter Burwell, notified the committee this week, and instead proposed several dates for Sanborn to voluntarily appear for an interview in early 2023.
“Your decision leaves us little choice but to consider compulsory process to obtain your testimony early in the 118th Congress,” Jordan, who is expected to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in January when Republicans take the majority of the House of Representatives and gain subpoena power in January, wrote a letter to Sanborn and her attorney.
“Your decision to renege on your commitment appears to have occurred only after your counsel sought guidance from the Department of Justice and Committee Democrats,” Jordan wrote, adding that he and Republicans do not believe the DOJ or FBI need to approve her appearance for a voluntary interview.
“We reiterate that to the extent the Department or FBI is or has been preventing your ability to respond to our request in a timely and comprehensive manner, we will examine these facts during your transcribed interview,” he wrote. “Simply put, although the Department and FBI likely would not welcome your testimony, your decision to voluntarily appear for a transcribed interview is your decision and yours alone.”
He added: “You have chosen not to do so.”
Sanborn has “vigorously” denied the allegations that she engaged in misconduct while at the FBI, according to assertions made to the committee by her attorney.
“The allegations about politicization and bias within the FBI are too serious for your dilatory tactics,” Jordan wrote, adding that he will continue to pursue the request for an interview through the end of the year—before Republicans take the majority of the House.
Jordan wrote that Sanborn should appear for an interview on Feb. 1, 2023.
“We will compel your testimony if necessary,” he wrote.
But upon notifying Jordan that Sanborn would not appear for her Friday interview, Burwell explained that it would “be more productive to revisit” the request for an interview in the next Congress.
“Given the outstanding issues with the Department of Justice and objections from the current Chairman of the Committee, we believe it will be more productive to revisit your request for a transcribed interview in the next Congress, and we look forward to working with you and your staff then,” Burwell wrote, proposing the interview take place during the week of Jan. 30, 2023 or Feb. 3, 2023.
Burwell also explained that Sanborn “understands she is obligated to coordinate any transcribed interview with the FBI and the DOJ, especially given the request necessarily rises issues related to classified information, ongoing criminal investigations, and long-recognized privileges.”
Burwell noted that the Justice Department “has not yet agreed to Ms. Sanborn’s participation in a ‘voluntary’ transcribed interview, especially in the absence of agency counsel, nor has the DOJ approved any representation of Ms. Sanborn by outside counsel for such an interview.” He also added that current committee chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., “does not support” Sanborn’s appearance as scheduled and under his chairmanship.
As for the allegations against her, Burwell said Sanborn is “known for emphasizing that the nature of the national security threat landscape—rather than the quantity of individual or ongoing investigations—should guide the FBI’s strategic focus and operational resources.”
“As such, the notion that Ms. Sanborn pressured subordinates to manipulate case numbers flies in the face of her well-known skepticism of focusing on that metric,” Burwell wrote. “To reiterate, Ms. Sanborn was never involved in any attempt to inappropriately emphasize or inflate the DVE threat. At no time did she ever pressure any of her subordinates to inappropriately classify any investigations as DVE-related or to manipulate threat statistics.”
Burwell added that Sanborn “understands and appreciates the importance of oversight and has sought to cooperate with your request from the outset.”
“We look forward to arranging a mutually convenient date for an interview during the week of January 30 or February 6,” Burwell continued. “And we trust we can agree on interview terms that respect not only Ms. Sanborn’s decorated career as a public servant but also the long-standing equities, policies, and procedures form prior investigations by the committee.”
Neither the Justice Department nor the FBI immediately responded to Fox News’ request for comment.
Jordan’s effort to seek Sanborn’s testimony come after a number of whistleblowers approached the committee claiming FBI agents faced pressure within the bureau to label cases as “domestic violent extremism.” Those whistleblowers also told Jordan that the FBI was “pulling agents off of child trafficking cases” to focus on this “political narrative.”
Despite the claims from whistleblower about improper filing of cases under the umbrella of domestic violent extremism, the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday issued a National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin, which warned that the United States “continues to face a heightened threat environment,” and stressed that “heightened political tensions” in the country “could contribute” to individuals mobilizing to violence.
“Perceptions of government overreach continue to drive individuals to attempt to commit violence targeting government officials and law enforcement officers,” the bulletin states. “Some domestic violent extremists have expressed grievances based on perceptions that the government is overstepping its Constitutional authorities or failing to perform its duties.”
Jordan is seeking voluntary testimony and compliance from a number of Justice Department and FBI officials – including Attorney General Merrick Garland, FBI Director Christopher Wray and more than a dozen others as the committee ramps up its investigation into allegations of politicization and bias at the bureau and the DOJ.
Jordan and committee Republicans have been investigating the Justice Department and the FBI for the past 21 months over “serious allegations of abuse and misconduct within the senior leadership,” but with new subpoena power falling into Republicans’ hands in January, those investigations are set to intensify.
Jordan and Republicans have sought information on the FBI’s raid of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, alleged FISA abuse, information on domestic violent extremism cases, the Justice Department’s efforts to monitor parents at school board meetings and label them as domestic terrorists, among other issues.