House Republicans ready contempt vote against FBI director
WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Oversight Committee plans to move forward this week with holding FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress.
Oversight Chairman Rep. James Comer said a more-than-hourlong briefing he received Monday from bureau officials about an unverified law enforcement tip against President Joe Biden does not amount to compliance with a subpoena.
FBI officials came to the Capitol on Monday to brief Comer, R-Ky., and Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the panel, about a June 2020 document that purportedly relates to Biden and his family.
The briefing was conducted privately in a secure space because FBI officials say the “several-page” form contains sensitive information.
“The FBI again refused to hand over the unclassified record to the custody of the House Oversight Committee,” Comer told reporters after the briefing. “And we will now initiate contempt of Congress hearings this Thursday.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters he would bring the contempt resolution against Wray, who was appointed by then-President Donald Trump, to the floor if it passes the committee.
In response, the FBI said in a statement that the escalation to a contempt vote was “unwarranted” considering the bureau had “continuously demonstrated its commitment to accommodate the committee’s request,” while protecting the safety of sources and integrity of ongoing investigations.
The White House called the decision by Comer to move forward with contempt “another fact-free stunt” intended to “spread thin innuendo to try to damage the President politically and get himself media attention.”
Comer initially wrote Wray on May 3 with GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa. They said they had been informed that the FBI has a document that “describes an alleged criminal scheme” involving Biden and a foreign national “relating to the exchange of money for policy decisions” when Biden was vice president.
The word “alleged” was used three times in the opening paragraph of the letter and Comer offered no evidence of the veracity of the accusations or any details about what they contend are “highly credible unclassified whistleblower disclosures.”
The document Republicans are focused on is what’s known as an FD-1023, which agents use to record unverified tips and information they receive from confidential human sources. The FBI says such documents can contain uncorroborated and incomplete information, and that record of a tip does not validate the information.
The Associated Press has not been able to independently verify what is contained in the document.
Comer subpoenaed Wray for a copy of the document and warned he would be prepared to hold him in contempt of Congress if he didn’t provide it. In response, FBI officials scheduled what they called an “extraordinary accommodation” and gave Comer access to the document “in a format and setting that maintains confidentiality and protects important security interests and the integrity of FBI investigations.”
But Comer told reporters the briefing Monday was not enough for him. He said the FBI needs to physically hand over the record to the committee, which, for confidentiality reasons, it has refused to do.
Speaking to reporters after the session, Comer and Raskin gave differing and conflicting accounts about what they heard in the room.
Raskin said FBI officials told them the unverified tip against Biden relates to information that former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani provided to the Justice Department in 2020 about the business dealings of Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, in Ukraine. Hunter Biden worked on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company.
Raskin described the allegation in the document as “secondhand hearsay” by individuals in Ukraine that the department had reviewed and “found no reason” to pursue further in a preliminary investigation.
“The source, who has been described as highly credible by the FBI, told the FBI he could not provide any opinion on the underlying veracity of the information provided by these Ukrainian individuals,” Raskin said in a statement late Monday.
He added that releasing the document to the public would be a “dangerous thing” because it could endanger the confidentiality of law enforcement sources.
Comer said the document contains allegations that show a “pattern of bribery” in the Biden family that is consistent with other claims the committee is investigating.
The Kentucky lawmaker has said repeatedly that “anything short” of producing the document would not be in compliance with the subpoena he issued last month. A contempt of Congress charge would require a full committee vote to send the resolution to the House floor. If the House were to hold Wray in contempt, it would be up to the Justice Department — where Wray works — to decide whether to prosecute him.
Pressed by reporters on why a contempt charge was necessary when the FBI has provided the subpoenaed information, Comer pointed to statements made by the White House. He also said the public needs to see the document.
“Given the severity and complexity of the allegations contained within this record, Congress must investigate further,” he said.