Prosecutors and FBI agents involved in the Hunter Biden investigation have been the targets of threats and harassment by people who think they haven’t been tough enough on the president’s son, according to government officials and congressional testimony obtained exclusively by NBC News.
It’s part of a dramatic uptick in threats against FBI agents that has coincided with attacks on the FBI and the Justice Department by congressional Republicans and former President Donald Trump, who have accused both agencies of participating in a conspiracy to subvert justice amid two federal indictments of Trump.
The threats have prompted the FBI to create a stand-alone unit to investigate and mitigate them, according to a previously unreleased transcript of congressional testimony.
“We have stood up an entire threat unit to address threats that the FBI employees’ facilities are receiving,” Jennifer L. Moore, then an executive assistant director of human resources for the FBI, told the House Judiciary Committee in June. “It is unprecedented. It’s a number we’ve never had before.”
“It’s going to be about 10 people when it’s finished,” she said. “We are still in the process of staffing it right now. But their sole mission on a daily basis is threats to FBI employees at facilities.”
Moore told lawmakers that threats to FBI agents and facilities had more than doubled — there were more in the six months from October to March than in the previous 12 months. More recent data was not available; officials say the pace of threats increased after the FBI investigations of Trump became public last summer and has not slowed since.
The FBI declined to comment.
Natalie Bara, president of the FBI Agents Association, a nonprofit group that advocates for current and retired agents, said in a statement, “FBI Special Agents and their families should never be threatened with violence, including for doing their jobs. This is not a partisan or political issue. Calls for violence against law enforcement are unacceptable, and should be condemned by all leaders.”
Federal prosecutor Lesley Wolf, who had been part of U.S. Attorney David Weiss’ team investigating Hunter Biden, got such a barrage of credible threats that she sought security help from the U.S. Marshals Service, according to previously unreleased testimony from an FBI official to the House Judiciary Committee last week. Two IRS agents on the case have accused Wolf of making decisions that appeared favorable to Biden. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.
Special counsel Jack Smith and his team have long been protected by an armed security detail, as is Robert Hur, the special counsel appointed to investigate classified documents found at President Joe Biden’s home and office.
On Thursday, the Atlanta office of the FBI said in a statement that it is aware of threats of violence against officials in Fulton County, Georgia, and is working with the county sheriff's office. Trump and 18 other defendants face state charges in Fulton County in connection with alleged election interference.
The field office declined to provide details of any investigations, but said, "[E]ach and every potential threat brought to our attention is taken seriously. Individuals found responsible for making threats in violation of state and/or federal laws will be prosecuted."
An intelligence bulletin last year said the FBI was investigating an unprecedented number of threats against agents and facilities in the wake of the August 2022 search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago compound in Palm Beach, Florida. A few days after the search, a man who was present at the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot was shot and killed after he tried to breach the FBI’s Cincinnati field office wearing body armor and carrying a rifle.
The FBI told House Judiciary Committee aides that Laura Dehmlow, who headed the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force and has been accused by congressional Republicans of suppressing social media and news coverage of Hunter Biden’s laptop, was the target of multiple threats after her name was connected to the Biden story, according to two congressional officials.
A source familiar with the matter said some FBI personnel have been the victims of “swatting,” in which someone calls in a false report that leads armed police to rush to a home.
Last week, an FBI agent involved in the Hunter Biden investigation told the House Judiciary Committee that the threats have extended to agents’ family members.
“Things towards their families, that has absolutely increased,” Thomas Sobocinski, an FBI agent involved in the investigation, said in a transcribed interview that has been widely circulated. “[T]he sense of the employees and especially the sense of their families is, yes, they feel threatened.”
In response, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told Sobocinski that the committee’s counsel, Steve Castor, “faced the same kind of thing” when he defended Trump in impeachment proceedings.
“There’s no place for those kind of threats and that kind of thing,” Jordan said.
CORRECTION (Sept. 14, 2023, 3:00 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the first name of the House Judiciary Committee’s counsel. He is Steve Castor, not Bruce Castor.