WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairman of the House Oversight Committee plans to move forward this week in holding FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress.
Oversight chairman representative James Comer said a more than hour-long briefing he received on Monday from bureau officials about an unverified report from law enforcement against President Joe Biden did not amount to complying with a subpoena.
FBI officials came to the Capitol on Monday to brief Comer, R-Ky., and Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, the panel’s top Democrat, about a June 2020 document that allegedly relates to Biden and his family.
The briefing was conducted privately in a secure space because FBI officials say the “multi-page” form contains sensitive information.
“The FBI again refused to release the unclassified file to the custody of the House Oversight Committee,” Comer told reporters after the briefing. “And we will now be launching contempt of Congress hearings this Thursday.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters he would introduce the contempt resolution against Wray, who was nominated by then-President Donald Trump, if passed by the committee.
In response, the FBI said in a statement that the escalation to a contempt vote was ‘unwarranted’ given that the bureau had ‘continuously demonstrated its commitment to meeting the committee’s request’, while protecting the safety of sources. and the integrity of ongoing investigations.
The White House called Comer’s decision to go forward with contempt “another factless stunt” intended to “spread thin innuendo in an attempt to politically harm the president and gain media attention.”
Comer originally penned Wray on May 3 with GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa. They said they were told the FBI had a document that “described an alleged criminal scheme” involving Biden and a foreign national “regarding the exchange of money for political decisions” when Biden was vice president.
The word “alleged” was used three times in the first paragraph of the letter and Comer provided no evidence of the truth of the charges or any details of what they claim are “highly credible unclassified whistleblower disclosures”. .
The document Republicans are focusing on is something called an FD-1023, which agents use to log unverified information and information they receive from confidential human sources. The FBI says these documents may contain unsubstantiated and incomplete information, and that taping a tip does not validate the information.
The Associated Press was unable to independently verify the contents of the document.
Comer subpoenaed Wray for a copy of the document and warned that he would be prepared to hold it in contempt of Congress if he did not provide it. In response, FBI officials made 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 ‘Integrity of FBI Investigations’.
But Comer told reporters that Monday’s briefing was not enough for him. He said the FBI had to physically turn over the file to the committee, which he declined to do for confidentiality reasons.
Speaking to reporters after the session, Comer and Raskin gave different and conflicting accounts of what they heard in the room.
Raskin said FBI officials told them the unverified tip against Biden related to information that former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani provided to the Justice Department in 2020 about Biden’s business dealings and his son, Hunter Biden, in Ukraine. Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company.
Raskin called the allegation in the document “second-hand hearsay” by individuals in Ukraine whom the department had reviewed and “found no reason” to pursue a preliminary investigation.
“The source, who has been described as highly credible by the FBI, told the FBI that it could offer no opinion on the underlying truthfulness of the information provided by these Ukrainian individuals,” Raskin said in a statement late Monday. .
He added that making the document public would be a “dangerous thing” as it could put the confidentiality of law enforcement sources at risk.
Comer said the document contains allegations that show a “pattern of corruption” in the Biden family that is consistent with other allegations the committee is investigating.
The Kentucky lawmaker has repeatedly said that “anything less than” the production of the document would not comply with the subpoena he issued last month. A contempt of Congress charge would require a vote in Committee of the Whole to send the resolution to the House floor. If the House were to despise Wray, it would be up to the Justice Department — where Wray works — to decide whether or not to prosecute him.
Pressed by reporters on why a contempt charge was necessary when the FBI provided the requested information, Comer pointed to statements made by the White House. He also said the public needed to see the document.
“Given the seriousness and complexity of the allegations in this case, Congress needs to investigate further,” he said.
___ Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.