David Daleiden may still find vindication — and Planned Parenthood may not yet have escaped legal scrutiny over its commercial partnerships with fetal-tissue brokers. The Hill’s John Solomon reports that the FBI has asked to review the raw files of a Senate probe into allegations of profiteering from the sales of organs and bodies of aborted babies. That, Solomon notes, could signal that a criminal probe is underway:
The FBI has asked the Senate for unredacted documents it obtained from abortion providers, signaling agents may be investigating whether Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers illegally sold fetal tissue and body parts, according to sources familiar with the document request.
The request was made in recent days, the sources said, to the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), last December referred Planned Parenthood and several other abortion providers to the FBI for investigation after a lengthy probe into the transfers of fetal tissue.
Grassley said at the time that his committee had uncovered enough evidence in its final investigative report to show abortion providers had transferred tissue and body parts from aborted fetuses to firms for use in research by charging dollar amounts above their actual costs.
That was also the conclusion of the House probe led by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Blackburn also called for a criminal probe into Planned Parenthood and tissue brokers and is making her fight on this front part of her campaign to replace the retiring Bob Corker in the Senate. When Blackburn announced her campaign, she made the issue the focus of her first video — and Twitter amplified its reach by initially blocking it from its ads program. They later relented, but explained that they objected to Blackburn’s characterization of PP’s work with brokers as “the sale of body parts.”
How serious is the FBI in pursuing this case? Solomon notes that it’s not quite as easy for the FBI to gain access to the unredacted and unreleased documents that the Senate holds. Anyone can access the public reports, but it requires a vote by the full Senate for the executive branch to use investigative files created by the legislature in grand-jury proceedings. FBI agents could get permission to review the files while keeping them in Judiciary custody, which would allow them to determine where to look for usable evidence on their own. A preliminary probe would likely just request that kind of access; if the FBI wants copies of the source documents transferred to their possession, it would signal a much more serious effort.
Since the exposure of these practices by David Daleiden and his Center for Medical Progress, Planned Parenthood has denied that they have profited off the sale of aborted babies and their tissue — but they have also changed their policies and procedures, too. They have three legal vulnerabilities. The transfer of aborted baby tissue, organs, and bodies is legal if: Planned Parenthood demanded prices for the sale of tissue and organs that only covered their costs associated with the transfer of remains, obtained informed consent from the mothers, and did not change their abortion procedures to acquire more saleable material. Daleiden’s undercover videos strongly suggested that Planned Parenthood violated all three of these restrictions and that those were policies set high up in the organization.
For the moment, we don’t know the status of the FBI probe, or even if there is a probe. The FBI (usually) does not disclose investigations in progress. If a grand jury starts seeing some of this evidence, though, Daleiden should get some vindication in the media, and Planned Parenthood better prepare for another political and legal firestorm.