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Fact check: Jim Jordan makes false claims about Trump, Hunter Biden to begin hearing on handling of the federal cases against them


By Daniel Dale, CNN

(CNN) — House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jim Jordan made false claims in his opening remarks at a Wednesday hearing at which Jordan and other Republicans pressed Attorney General Merrick Garland about the Justice Department’s handling of investigations into former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden.

Here is a fact check of two inaccurate remarks from Jordan, plus one from Rep. Thomas Massie and another from Rep. Chip Roy.

FBI search of Mar-a-Lago

Criticizing the FBI search of Trump’s home in Florida in August 2022, Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, falsely claimed in his opening statement at Wednesday’s hearing that Trump did everything the Justice Department had asked him to do prior to the search.

Among other acts of compliance, Jordan said, Trump immediately turned over 38 documents he discovered prior to the search, then complied with a Justice Department request to further secure the storage room where official documents were being stored.

“Everything they asked him to do, he did. And then what’s the Justice Department do? August 8, last year, they raid President Trump’s home,” Jordan said.

Facts First: Jordan’s claim that Trump did “everything” the Justice Department asked him to do is incorrect. When the Justice Department obtained a May 2022 grand jury subpoena demanding that Trump turn over all documents with classification markings, Trump did not do so. Instead, Trump’s indictment alleges, he turned over just 38 documents with classification markings in June 2022, far fewer than he possessed; the August 2022 FBI search of Mar-a-Lago found 102 additional documents with classification markings. In addition, the indictment alleges that, upon producing the 38 documents, Trump intentionally had one of his lawyers sign a document that falsely certified that all the documents demanded by the subpoena had been produced.

The indictment, brought by special counsel Jack Smith, also alleges that Trump committed multiple other acts of obstruction to try to avoid complying with the May 2022 subpoena.

The indictment says that Trump directed an aide, Walt Nauta, to move boxes before Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran conducted a search for the documents in early June 2022 in response to the subpoena, “so that many boxes were not searched and many documents responsive to the May 11 Subpoena could not be found – and in fact were not found – by (Corcoran).” The indictment also alleges that Trump suggested that Corcoran falsely represent to the government that Trump “did not have documents called for by the May 11 Subpoena” and that Corcoran “hide or destroy documents called for by the May 11 Subpoena.”

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Hunter Biden’s qualifications

Jordan claimed that Hunter Biden has himself admitted that he was unqualified for his former role on the board of directors of Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings.

“He wasn’t qualified to be on the board of Burisma. Not my words, his words,” Jordan said. “He said he got on the board because of his last name.”

Facts First: It’s not true that Hunter Biden himself said he wasn’t qualified to sit on the Burisma board. In fact, Hunter Biden said in a 2019 interview with ABC News that “I was completely qualified to be on the board” and defended his qualifications in detail. He did acknowledge, as Jordan said, that he would “probably not” have been asked to be on the board if he was not a Biden – but he nonetheless explicitly rejected claims that he wasn’t qualified, calling them “misinformation.”

When the ABC interviewer asked what his qualifications for the role were, he said: “Well, I was vice chairman on the board of Amtrak for five years. I was the chairman of the board of the UN World Food Programme. I was a lawyer for Boies Schiller Flexner, one of the most prestigious law firms in the world. Bottom line is that I know that I was completely qualified to be on the board to head up the corporate governance and transparency committee on the board. And that’s all that I focused on. Basically, turning a Eastern European independent natural gas company into Western standards of corporate governance.”

When the ABC interviewer said, “You didn’t have any extensive knowledge about natural gas or Ukraine itself, though,” Biden responded, “No, but I think I had as much knowledge as anybody else that was on the board – if not more.”

Asked if he would have been asked to be on the board if his last name wasn’t Biden, Biden said, “I don’t know. I don’t know. Probably not.” He added “there’s a lot of things” in his life that wouldn’t have happened if he had a different last name.

A side note: Biden had served as the board chair for World Food Program USA, a nonprofit that supports the UN World Food Programme, not the UN program itself as he claimed in the interview.

January 6 sentences

Massie, a Kentucky Republian, brought up Ray Epps, a participant in the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021, who has been the subject of baseless conspiracy theories alleging that he was a “false flag” provocateur working with the FBI to incite Trump supporters.

Epps was charged Monday with a misdemeanor, engaging in disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, and pleaded guilty on Wednesday. Massie, suggesting the charge against Epps was light, told Garland: “Meanwhile you’re sending grandmas to prison. You’re putting people away for 20 years for merely filming. Some people weren’t even there.”

Facts First: It’s not true that anybody who has been sentenced in connection with the January 6 riot has received 20 years in prison “for merely filming.” And the rioter Massie’s office says he was talking about, who has not yet been sentenced, is extremely unlikely to receive a sentence even close to that long.

The only January 6-related sentence to date that is at or above the 20-year mark was handed down to Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, who was convicted of multiple felonies including seditious conspiracy. Though Tarrio wasn’t at the Capitol on January 6 – he had been ordered to leave Washington after an arrest two days prior – Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, said, “Mr. Tarrio was the ultimate leader of that conspiracy” and “had an outsized impact on the events of the day.” Other January 6 figures whose sentences were in the neighborhood of 20 years, such as senior Proud Boy Ethan Nordean (18 years), Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes (18 years) and senior Proud Boy Joe Biggs (17 years), were also convicted of seditious conspiracy along with other felonies.

Massie spokesperson John Kennedy told CNN after the hearing on Wednesday that Massie was referring to the case of Ryan Zink, a riot participant from Texas who was convicted by a jury last week of one felony (obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting) and two misdemeanors (entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, and disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds).

But contrary to Massie’s suggestion, Zink was not a mere observer just filming the riot; according to court documents, he recorded himself on Capitol grounds making enthusiastic comments like, “We knocked down the gates! We’re storming the Capitol! You can’t stop us!” and “We stormed the Capitol. There’s thousands of us here. They can’t stop us all!” And while Kennedy provided a link to a local news article from 2021 that claimed Zink was facing up to 21 years in prison, it is a virtual certainty that he will not receive a sentence approaching that length; rioters with roughly similar cases have received much shorter sentences.

Garland’s 2021 memo

Roy, a Texas Republican, revived a repeatedly debunked Republican claim about the contents of a memo Garland issued in October 2021 regarding what the memo called “a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.”

Other Republicans have wrongly asserted that Garland’s memo referred to parents as “domestic terrorists” for speaking at or even just appearing at school board meetings. At the Wednesday hearing, Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a New Jersey Republican, told Garland, “I hold you accountable for the labeling of parents as domestic terrorists standing up for their proper education of their own children.

Later in the hearing, Roy went a step further – claiming that Garland’s memo labeled a particular Virginia parent a domestic terrorist.

The parent, Scott Smith, was convicted of disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice for his conduct at a 2021 school board meeting held the month after his daughter was sexually assaulted at school. Smith was pardoned by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin earlier this month.

Roy asked Garland, “Have you apologized for putting that memo out that implicated Scott Smith as a domestic terrorist?”

Garland responded, “The memo said nothing about him, nothing about parents being terrorists, nothing about attending school boards.”

But Roy continued, “So the answer is, it’s not been rescinded and you haven’t apologized for it…labeling an American citizen a domestic terrorist in a memo.”

Facts First: Garland was right and Roy was wrong. The memo did not mention Smith and did not label him or any other parent a domestic terrorist. In fact, the memo did not refer to “terrorists” or “terrorism” at all.

Multiple fact checks from CNN and other outlets have noted that various Republicans have distorted the contents of Garland’s memo. And in 2022, a Trump-appointed judge threw out a lawsuit from parents who accused Garland of stifling their free speech – writing in his decision that Garland’s memo “does not label anyone a domestic terrorist.”

Here’s what actually happened.

In September 2021, the National School Boards Association sent a letter to President Joe Biden arguing that “acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials” could be classified as “the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.” After a controversy over the letter, the association’s board of directors apologized in October 2021, saying that “there was no justification” for some of the letter’s language.

The week after the association sent the letter, Garland released a memo encouraging the FBI, federal prosecutors and federal, state and local leaders to convene meetings to discuss strategies to combat threats against education officials; the memo said the Justice Department would prosecute these threats “when appropriate.” The memo, however, never used the association’s “domestic terrorism” rhetoric and never endorsed the association’s suggestion that the Patriot Act could be used against perpetrators.

Garland testified to the House Judiciary Committee in October 2021 that complaints about education are “totally protected by the First Amendment” as long as they are not threats of violence. He also said he cannot “imagine a circumstance where they would be labeled as domestic terrorism.”

“I want to be clear, the Justice Department supports and defends the First Amendment right of parents to complain as vociferously as they wish about the education of their children, about the curriculum taught in the schools,” Garland said in his October 2021 testimony. “That is not what the memorandum is about at all, nor does it use the words ‘domestic terrorism’ or ‘Patriot Act.’”

This story has been updated with comment from Rep. Thomas Massie’s office.

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