March 9, 2023
By Margot Cleveland | The Federalist
The FBI’s D.C. field office directed the Boston office to open investigations into more than 100 Americans who had attended the Jan. 6 rally despite having no evidence those individuals had committed any crime, according to whistleblower testimony reviewed by The Federalist.
This represents the second attempt by the D.C. field office to sic the FBI on innocent Americans — in this case, people who were exercising their First Amendment right to free speech.
The D.C. field office pressured Boston’s FBI office to open criminal investigations into some 140 people who took buses from Massachusetts to D.C. on Jan. 6, according to testimony from George Hill, a whistleblower and recently retired FBI supervisory intelligence analyst, reviewed by The Federalist. The D.C. field office applied this pressure, Hill said, even though it had no evidence that any of those travelers had entered restricted areas of the Capitol.
Hill, a military veteran and former longtime FBI and NSA analyst, had previously identified himself as one of several whistleblowers cooperating with House Judiciary Committee investigators when he spoke with Just the News’ John Solomon last month. The Federalist’s review of Hill’s testimony confirmed the details he told Solomon and exposed more troubling information.
According to Hill’s testimony, after rioters entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the D.C. field office, which was leading the investigation, presented the Boston office “definitive evidence” that two individuals within its jurisdiction had entered restricted areas of the Capitol. Boston opened investigations into those two individuals.
In his deposition testimony to congressional investigators, Hill explained that because those two people had arranged for buses to take rally-goers to Washington, the D.C. field office told the Boston office to open investigations into all 140 of the passengers.
According to the whistleblower, a Boston supervisory special agent, or SSA, told the D.C. field office, “Happy to do it. Show us where they were inside the Capitol, and we’ll look into it.”
But the D.C. field office said it couldn’t do that unless it knew the exact time and location in the Capitol where the individuals were located, according to Hill’s testimony. Then when Boston asked for access to the 11,000 hours of video to allow its own agents to review the footage themselves to assess whether to launch an investigation into any of the rally-goers, the D.C. field office refused to share the video, Hill’s testimony revealed. The bureau claimed the footage might reveal undercover agents or confidential human sources, according to the whistleblower.
Yet the D.C. field office persisted in its demand for Boston to open investigations into everyone on the bus, threatening to call the special agent in charge of the field office if the lower-level agent refused. The supervisory special agent remained firm, however. As Hill explained, the SSA told the D.C. field office that those 140 people “were going to a political rally, which is First Amendment protected activity.”
This move by the bureau represents its second such attempt — just from Hill’s testimony — to target innocent Americans. As The Federalist reported on Monday, Hill also told the House Judiciary Committee that the D.C. field office pressured local FBI field offices to open investigations on innocent, gun-owning Americans based on data mining that Bank of America voluntarily provided to the bureau.
According to The Federalist’s review of the testimony, Hill said the Bank of America list included people who used its credit or debit cards in D.C., or the surrounding Maryland and Virginia areas, on Jan. 5, 6, or 7, 2021. Furthermore, people who had ever (through Jan. 6, 2021) used a Bank of America product to purchase a firearm were elevated to the top of the list.
In both instances, Boston’s special agent in charge, Joseph Bonavolonta, withstood the outside pressure — something Hill commended in his testimony.
While Bonavolonta and the Boston office refused to investigate Americans based solely on their First Amendment activities or credit card receipts placing them in the greater-D.C. area, it is unclear whether other field offices launched investigations based on the D.C. office’s pressure. A source familiar with Hill’s testimony confirmed that Hill did not know the answer to that question either.
Open-source reporting, however, reveals that in at least one instance, the FBI questioned an individual who organized buses for rally-goers — apparently without any evidence of potentially illegal conduct. In January of 2021, FBI agents appeared at Jim Worthington’s suburban Philadelphia home to quiz him about the events of Jan. 6, 2021. Worthington was not home at the time but later spoke with investigators over the course of two hours, confirming he had been in D.C. for the rally and had “helped bring busloads of people to the event,” but had “never went to the Capitol.”
Given that Worthington, who also led the People4Trump PAC, never entered the Capitol, one must wonder what legitimate basis the FBI claimed it had to target him.
Or had the D.C. field office pressured the Philadelphia field office to open an investigation into Worthington? And what about the some-200 people who traveled to D.C. on the buses Worthington arranged? Did the local field office open investigations into those people? And what about the other 50-plus field offices? Did they also target individuals based on their First Amendment-protected activities? With stories of buses from across America traveling to D.C. for the Jan. 6 rally, it is a definite possibility.
While it’s long been known that the House’s Jan. 6 Committee and the legacy media pushed a narrative that conflated the rally-goers and the rioters, the whistleblower’s allegations now suggest the FBI’s D.C. field office also treated Americans exercising their right to free speech as suspected criminals, without any evidentiary basis to do so.
Mollie Hemingway contributed to this report.
Margot Cleveland is The Federalist's senior legal correspondent. She is also a contributor to National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, Aleteia, and Townhall.com, and has been published in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Cleveland is a lawyer and a graduate of the Notre Dame Law School, where she earned the Hoynes Prize—the law school’s highest honor. She later served for nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk for a federal appellate judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Cleveland is a former full-time university faculty member and now teaches as an adjunct from time to time. As a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of a young son with cystic fibrosis, Cleveland frequently writes on cultural issues related to parenting and special-needs children. Cleveland is on Twitter at @ProfMJCleveland. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.