Steve Bannon (Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has been hit with an unprecedented breakdown in its operations, as agents are unanimously refusing the assignment to enter the residence of former Trump aide Steve Bannon in search of evidence related to the insurrection mounted at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
“There has never been a situation like this in the history of the bureau, as far as I know,” said agent James Bardwell, a 32-year veteran of the agency. “All our agents would walk through fire to do their job. But I have to say that in this case, I’m glad I’m no longer in the field. I mean, there are some things you can’t un-see. Or un-smell.”
The U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack subpoenaed Bannon, but he refused to appear. The House then voted to hold Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress and referred him to the Justice Department for possible prosecution, which could be hampered by the F.B.I.’s inability to gather evidence from Bannon’s apartment.
The bureau has thus far been unable to find any field operatives willing to enter Bannon’s place of residence, even though an agent’s refusal to accept an assignment could result in termination.
“I took an oath, and in my 24 years with the Bureau, I’ve had to examine some crime scenes that most people just couldn’t handle up close. But we agents are human beings, and for every person there is a line," said an agent who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I know I could be jeopardizing my career, but this is beyond the pale of any assignment I've ever been given. Haz-Mat suits have been known to fail. Nobody could make me go in there.”
Bureau commanders are exploring the possibility of using a drone or robot to enter and inspect Bannon’s apartment. The agency often deploys remote-controlled robots to defuse or detonate explosive or incendiary devices. In this case, the robot would be covered with an additional protective barrier, agents said.