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DOJ watchdog seeks to interview FBI whistleblower, pushing back against Democrat attacks

The letter contradicts the accounts of House Democrats, who have cast aspersions on Friend's credibility.

Published: March 15, 2023 9:56pm

Updated: March 16, 2023 7:41am

The Department of Justice's internal watchdog is contradicting claims by Democrats that it has already disregarded allegations from a high-profile FBI whistleblower, writing a rare letter declaring it is still evaluating his evidence and wants to interview him.

In a letter to Empower Oversight President Tristan Leavitt, DOJ Assistant Inspector General Sean O'Neill confirmed that the Inspector General's office still intended to interview former FBI Special Agent Steve Friend, who has raised concerns about the FBI use of SWAT teams and how it handed cases related to the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol Riot.

"As we conveyed to your office in early February, we are interested in interviewing Mr. Friend about his allegations, which remain under assessment by our office. We will follow up with you shortly to schedule an interview," O'Neill wrote.

The letter pushes back against the accounts of House Democrats, who have cast aspersions on Friend's credibility, as well as that of other whistleblowers whom Republicans have interviewed.

In early March, subcommittee Democrats released a staff report that claimed the office of DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz had rejected Friend's claims. Following that report, watchdog group Empower Oversight asked Horowitz's office to clarify its position on his allegations. The group specifically sought to confirm that Horowitz intended both address Friend's original claims and his assertions that the bureau retaliated against him.

The lawmakers had attempted to discredit the whistleblowers' testimony in the staff report, saying "the three individuals we have met are not, in fact, 'whistleblowers.' These individuals, who put forward a wide range of conspiracy theories, did not present actual evidence of any wrongdoing at the Department of Justice or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)."

Of particular focus to them was former FBI Special Agent Stephen Friend, who claimed "that the FBI departed from its internal operations manual as it managed hundreds of cases after the January 6 Capitol attack." The report indicated that Horowitz's office rejected the claim.

The Democrats further pointed to Friend's objection to the FBI use of a SWAT team, saying "[h]e presented no evidence to suggest that the FBI’s decision to use the SWAT team was anything more than a precaution to protect FBI personnel and other law enforcement officers."

Empower Oversight announced the letter in a press release, asserting that it "corrects widely circulated false claims that the DOJ-OIG has 'rejected' Friend's allegations and indicates that an interview of him will be scheduled shortly."

Friend resigned from the bureau in February after not receiving a paycheck for 150 straight days.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on Twitter.

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