The inspector general for the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) has opened a formal investigation into allegations that the law enforcement agency has been improperly spying on Republican members of Congress, their staff, and visitors to their offices, the Federalist reported on Tuesday.
Concerns that the USCP have overstepped their bounds have been simmering for months, with some Republican lawmakers alleging that the Capitol Police have been transformed into Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “personal Praetorian Guard.”
USCP Chief J. Thomas Manger confirmed the opening of the inspector general investigation in a letter to seven Republican lawmakers, and insisted that all actions taken by the USCP have been “legal, necessary, and appropriate.”
“While I am confident in our methods, I am asking the USCP Office of the Inspector General to review the USCP’s programs related to these security assessments to assure both this Committee, the Congress as a whole, and the public that these processes are legal, necessary, and appropriate,” Manger wrote.
According to a Politico exposé on the USCP’s surveillance abuses published on January 24, Julie Farnam, the acting director of USCP’s Intelligence and Interagency Coordination Division, directed USCP analysts to “run background checks on people whom lawmakers planned to meet, including donors and associates.”
“When staff were listed as attending these meetings, Capitol Police intelligence analysts also got asked to check the social media accounts of the staffers,” the Politico article alleged.
In his letter to the Republican lawmakers, Manger reportedly denied the allegations in the Politico article, and insisted that USCP’s activities were “appropriate and legal.”
Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) disputed Manger’s stance in a long Twitter thread on Tuesday, accusing the Capitol Police Intelligence Division of “illegally” investigating his office last November. Nehls alleged that one of his staffers had “caught them in the act.”
The @CapitolPolice Intelligence Division investigated my office illegally and one of my staffers caught them in the act.
— Congressman Troy Nehls (@RepTroyNehls) February 8, 2022
On November 20th, 2021, Capitol Police entered my office without my knowledge and photographed confidential legislative products protected by the Speech and Debate clause enshrined in the Constitution, Article 1 Section 6.
Two days later on Monday November 22, 2021 (Thanksgiving week), three intelligence officers attempted to enter my office while the House was in recess.
Upon discovering a member of my staff, special agents dressed like construction workers began to question him as to the contents of a photograph taken illegally two days earlier.
@CapitolPolice never informed myself or senior level staff of their investigation and the reasons are clear.
They had no authority to photograph my office, let alone investigate myself or members of my staff.
So, why is the Capitol Police Leadership maliciously investigating me in an attempt to destroy me and my character?
Maybe it is because I have been a vocal critic of @SpeakerPelosi, the @January6thCmte, and @CapitolPolice leadership about their handling of January 6th, the death of Ashli Babbitt and the subsequent SHAM investigation.
According to the Federalist, the USCP officer filed a police report following the incident, claiming that he had been conducting a routine security patrol on November 21, and discovered that one of the doors to Nehls’ office was open.
The report claimed that the officer entered Nehls’ office and found a whiteboard that contained “suspicious writings mentioning body armor[.]” The officer reportedly took a photo of the whiteboard, which was then passed around to analysts within USCP. The following Monday, USCP dispatched three plain-clothed intelligence officers to Nehls’ office and questioned a staffer who was there about the whiteboard and the legislative proposals it contained.
Just days before the USCP officer entered Nehls’ office and took a picture of the whiteboard Nehls and his staff used to brainstorm and catalog legislative ideas, the Washington Post ran a story about a federal government contractor in rural Texas who defrauded the United States by supplying Chinese-made body armor instead of body armor manufactured in the United States.
“From his home in rural Texas, a would-be defense contractor spun a web of fake companies and testing reports to pass off Chinese-made body armor as American equipment that met rigorous standards for use by the State Department and U.S. law enforcement partners in Latin America,” the Washington Post wrote on November 16, 2021. “Tanner Jackson, 32, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Alexandria federal court to one count of wire fraud, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.”
According to Nehls, who previously served as sheriff of Fort Bend County, Texas, his office whiteboard specifically called out faulty Chinese body armor. In fact, that Washington Post article was a key catalyst spurring Nehls to consider drafting legislation banning the procurement of Chinese body armor, a spokesman for Nehls told The Federalist.
What the police report did not include was any reference to multiple items on Nehls’ whiteboard immediately following the words “body armor” referencing Export Administration Regulations dealing specifically with Chinese imports or U.S. Department of Justice standards for certifying body armor.
In correspondence on the matter with the House Administration Committee, USCP Chief Manger said the responding officer who investigated Nehls’ office was also concerned by “an outline of the Rayburn Building with an X marked at the C Street entrance” drawn on the whiteboard. A Nehls spokesman told The Federalist it was little more than a crude map to help an intern find an ice machine in the Rayburn House Office Building.
“If Capitol Police leadership had spent as much time preparing for January 6 as they spent investigating my white board, the January 6 riot never would have happened,” Nehls, a former law enforcement officer, told The Federalist. “When I was a patrol officer responding to a call, I didn’t have the time or authority to go rifling through someone’s personal papers. There are serious 4th Amendment, constitutional issues at play here.”
In response to Nehls’ accusations, Manger on Tuesday put out a statement in support of “the vigilant officer” who had investigated the congressman’s office, and stating that “no case investigation was ever initiated or conducted into the Representative or his staff.”
This morning a U.S. Representative complained about one of our vigilant officers. Chief Manger stands by his officer.
“The United States Capitol Police is sworn to protect Members of Congress. If a Member’s office is left open and unsecured, without anyone inside the office, USCP officers are directed to document that and secure the office to ensure nobody can wander in and steal or do anything else nefarious. The weekend before Thanksgiving, one of our vigilant officers spotted the Congressman’s door was wide open. That Monday, USCP personnel personally followed up with the Congressman’s staff and determined no investigation or further action of any kind was needed. No case investigation was ever initiated or conducted into the Representative or his staff.
According to one Republican congressman, the Department of Justice has also gotten involved in snooping on GOP lawmakers’ correspondence.
In a press release on Tuesday, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said his staff received a letter in January addressed to his official office from a Christian missionary, and it had already been “opened and stamped ‘DOJ MAILROOM’ with a date and ‘X-RAYED’ on the stamp.”
A second letter from a constituent, according to Gohmert, was mailed from east Texas and postmarked September 2021 and finally received last week.
“It took four-and-a-half months to reach my office and was also opened and bore a stamp from the DOJ,” Gohmert said.
“It is gravely concerning that since Congressional mail is constitutionally protected under the Speech and Debate Clause of the Constitution, it could be routed, intentionally or not, through the highly partisan DOJ. This is felonious behavior,” the Texas congressman added.
“Given reports breaking today of an Inspector General’s investigation being opened after another Republican member alleged Speaker Pelosi’s Capitol Police were in his personal office photographing his work product, the Democrat’s spying on political opponents appears to know no end,” he continued.
Gohmert had a word of warning for the Democrat politicians behind the abuses.
The Speaker has already required offices to turn in names, dates, and times of our meetings, along with the purpose of the meeting, for our constituents to be allowed entrance into our office buildings to meet with their duly-elected member of Congress. Then, we are told, she has the Capitol Police doing opposition research that is catalogued for later use. We have never ever seen a Congress so partisan to such an unethical and illegal extent. The people behind this should be hoping and praying that they will not be treated in the same manner in which they are running roughshod over Republicans when and if Republicans retake the majority.
Gohmert pointed out that the Supreme Court has ruled that “the Department of Justice cannot even use a search warrant to search a Representative’s mail and office,” and demanded “answers to this outrage, not excuses.”
Rep. Nehls responded to Manger’s statement in support of “the vigilant officer,” calling it a “mischaracterization of the events” that “failed to respond to the most troubling actions of his department.”
The congressman said he is looking forward to an IG investigation into the matter because “Capitol Police leadership cannot be relied upon to hold themselves accountable.”
Nehls also asked the USCP to “release the photo that prompted the investigation.”
— Congressman Troy Nehls (@RepTroyNehls) February 8, 2022
Nehls appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News Tuesday night to discuss the case:
.@RepTroyNehls Joins Tucker Carlson Tonight To Discuss Members Of Capitol Police Spying On Members Of Congress@SheriffTNehls: "They're weaponizing these federal law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies."
Tucker: "I hope you get every one one of these cretins fired." pic.twitter.com/6uDe0x2NmY
— The Columbia Bugle 🇺🇸 (@ColumbiaBugle) February 9, 2022