Phone call between Comer, Wray keeps contempt threat over FBI director’s head
House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer and Sen. Charles Grassley said Wednesday they have confirmed with FBI Director Christopher A. Wray the existence of an FBI document alleging then-Vice President Biden engaged in a criminal bribery scheme with a foreign national.
But the lawmakers still aren’t able to get their hands on it.
After a phone call Wednesday with the FBI director, Mr. Comer said Mr. Wray has not promised to hand over the unclassified documents which were subpoenaed last month by his committee, and Mr. Comer is still preparing contempt charges if Mr. Wray refuses to turn over the documents.
“While Director Wray – after a month of refusing to even acknowledge that the form existed – has offered to allow us to see the documents in person at FBI headquarters, we have been clear that anything short of producing these documents to the House Oversight Committee is not in compliance with the subpoena,” Mr. Comer, Kentucky Republican, said in a statement.
“If the FBI fails to hand over the FD-1023 form as required by the subpoena, the House Oversight Committee will begin contempt of Congress proceedings,” he said.
The Washington Times reached out to the FBI but did not hear back.
The FBI said in a statement Tuesday night that Mr. Wray had scheduled the phone call “to provide additional details of the FBI‘s extraordinary accommodation to satisfy the subpoena request. Any discussion of escalation under these circumstances is unnecessary.”
The FBI said it was committed to cooperating with the committee and would provide Mr. Comer access to “information responsive to the committee’s subpoena in a format and setting that maintains confidentiality and protects important security interests and the integrity of FBI investigations.”
Mr. Comer had vowed to advance a contempt resolution against Mr. Wray after he missed the initial deadline to turn over the subpoenaed records his committee requested. He he would not allow the FBI to “stiff-arm” Congress‘ pursuit of records about a criminal scheme involving Mr. Biden.
“The FBI informed the committee that it will not provide the unclassified documents subpoenaed by the committee,” Mr. Comer said.
“The FBI‘s decision to stiff-arm Congress and hide this information from the American people is obstructionist and unacceptable.”
According to Mr. Comer, the document is based on a tip from an informant on June 30, 2020. A whistleblower tipped off Mr. Grassley, Iowa Republican, of the file on Mr. Biden.
The FBI had cited concerns about informant confidentiality with regard to the document and said its information had not been verified.
But Mr. Grassley said in a statement that while the FBI apparently “leaked classified information” to the media in recent weeks and “jeopardized its own human sources,” the “bureau continues to treat Congress like second-class citizens by refusing to provide a specific unclassified record.”
“Director Wray confirmed what my whistleblowers have told me pursuant to legally protected disclosures: the FBI-generated document is real, but the bureau has yet to provide it to Congress in defiance of a legitimate congressional subpoena. This failure comes with consequences,” Mr. Grassley said.
If Republicans go forward with contempt charges against Mr. Wray, they can opt for either criminal or civil contempt charges.
Criminal contempt is voted out of the committee to the full floor. Following a successful vote, it would go to the U.S. attorney in Washington, an appointee of President Biden, who reports to Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Mr. Wray.
An alternative path for Republicans on the Oversight Committee is civil contempt, which means the GOP can file a lawsuit following the votes, and the matter goes to a federal judge. The judge could then order Mr. Wray to turn over the document. However, the document could be redacted by bureau officials.
“We’re still drafting it, but it’s going to look very similar to what the Democrats did with Steve Bannon,” Mr. Comer said during an appearance on Fox News Tuesday night. “That was a perfect example of a congressional committee holding someone in contempt of Congress.”
The House voted largely along party lines in January 2022 to find Mr. Bannon in criminal contempt for stonewalling the investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riots.
A federal court found him guilty on one contempt count involving his refusal to appear for a deposition and another involving his refusal to produce documents, despite a subpoena from the House Select Committee that was investigating the attack.