Ted Cruz asked Jill Sandborn, the executive assistant director of the National Security Branch, whether or not federal agents were involved in planning or perpetrating the Jan 6th incident in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Sanborn does not directly answer any of these questions, saying "I can't answer that".

I don't have much knowledge on how committee hearings work, but is it common practice for government higher-ups to refuse to answer questions? Why would that be the case? Even if there were federal agents at Jan 6th, would Sanborn have any reason to evade the question rather than just lie and say that there were none? A couple large right wing news outlets have used this to suggest that there were federal agents involved.


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    This question might also ask if it's customary for law enforcement/CIA to refuse to divulge details about informants/agents they have in place to Congressional investigations. There might be operational security/need to know protocols or understandings already in place to cover this sort of things. Jan 13 at 23:00
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    This seems like an opinion based question and the number of answers for it are pretty much limitless.
    – Joe W
    Jan 13 at 23:01
  • @JoeW While that may be true, the important answer to get out is that there are credible and honest reasons to not answer the question. If that is in fact the case. It doesn't really matter which one is right, but establishing that those reasons exist is helpful.
    – Jontia
    Jan 14 at 12:40
  • @Jontia And people can provide ones to and discredit her but either way that doesn't improve the quality of the question.
    – Joe W
    Jan 14 at 13:21

It could be a question that they don't know the answer to, or are not confident that they can give a correct answer to without researching further.

Even if there were federal agents at Jan 6th, would Sanborn have any reason to evade the question rather than just lie and say that there were none?

Yes. Refusing to answer is not a crime. Lying to a congressional investigation is.

  • Executive Assistant Director of the National Security Branch should either know the answer or have a date by which she will know. If the FBI was lilly-white clean for the last few years, one might be inclined to cut her some slack. However, there have been glow-sticks aplenty in many high-profile events. At least one big one in the last year.
    – Dan
    Jan 14 at 3:14
  • "refusing to answer is not a crime": actually, it is; see law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/2/192. Furthermore, "I can't answer that" could be a false statement, in which case that would also be a crime. (I'm not saying that the testimony in question necessarily violated 2 USC 192; there are probably lawful reasons to respond "I can't answer that," for example if answering the question would require divulging classified information, but the general statement that refusing to answer is not a crime is incorrect.)
    – phoog
    Jan 14 at 11:35
  • @Dan If you don't have the knowledge or are waiting on other things such as investigations to finish before you can provide an answer you won't always be able to provide a date when you can answer.
    – Joe W
    Jan 14 at 13:24
  • "I can't" is ambiguous -- it could me "I'm unable to" or "I'm not allowed to".
    – Barmar
    Jan 14 at 16:34
  • @JoeW The only reasons you would not be able to provide a date would be if you did not have control of the organisation, or you did not intend to answer. Neither is acceptable.
    – Dan
    Jan 14 at 20:40

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