House Oversight Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., said Tuesday the committee is moving forward with a vote to hold FBI Director Christopher Wray in criminal contempt of Congress for failing to turn over a document in the investigation. of the panel on the Biden family businesses. .
Contender subpoenaed the FBI this month for a form FD-1023 that he and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, say «describes an alleged criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Biden and a foreign national related to the exchange of money for political decisions,» without providing further details. The FBI declined to provide the document, saying it is subject to Justice Department policy. which «strictly limits when and how sensitive information from human sources outside of the FBI can be provided.»
Comer last week threatened to hold Wray in contempt if the FBI did not provide the information by Tuesday. In a statement Tuesday, the House Oversight Chairman said the FBI informed the committee that it «will not provide the unclassified documents requested» by the panel.
«The FBI’s decision to stiffen the arm of Congress and withhold this information from the American people is obstructionist and unacceptable,» he said.
Comer said he was scheduled to speak with Wray on Wednesday about the agency’s refusal to release the information, but the committee is preparing to take the punitive step before their conversation.
“Although I have a scheduled call with FBI Director Wray tomorrow to further discuss his response, the committee has been clear in its intent to protect congressional oversight authorities and will now take action to indict the FBI Director. in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply. with a legal subpoena,” he said. «Americans deserve the truth, and the Oversight Committee will continue to demand transparency from this nation’s leading law enforcement agency.»
Acting FBI Deputy Director Christopher Dunham on Tuesday sent a letter to eat, before your threat of contempt. In the letter, obtained by NBC News, Dunham explains why the office cannot comply with the committee’s subpoena due to the need to protect human sources.
“As we have also previously stated, information provided by confidential human sources also implicates other long-standing Department confidentiality interests,” Dunham wrote. «The Department’s intelligence and law enforcement authorities allow us to collect significant amounts of information, but only subject to strict constitutional, statutory, and policy limits essential to the rule of law.»
The letter also describes how the FBI explained to Comer and his staff how the FD-1023 forms were used and how agents reviewed them to ensure their accuracy.
«Investigative reports, such as an FD-1023, include leads and suspicions, not investigators’ conclusions based on fuller context, including information that may not be available to the confidential source,» Dunham wrote. “As we have explained, a Form FD-1023 documents the information that was told to an FBI line agent. Recording the information does not validate it, establish its credibility, or compare it to other information known to or developed by the FBI.»
«In addition, the public’s perception of the fairness of the law enforcement process could be damaged if sensitive material is distributed beyond what is necessary in the investigative process,» he added.
An FBI spokesperson said in a statement that the office «remains committed to cooperating with the committee in good faith.»
“In a letter to Chairman Comer today, the FBI committed to providing access to information responsive to the Committee’s subpoena in a format and environment that maintains confidentiality and protects important security interests and the integrity of investigations. from the FBI,» the FBI spokesman said. “Last week, Director Wray scheduled a phone call for tomorrow to provide additional details regarding the FBI’s extraordinary accommodations to satisfy the subpoena request. Any discussion of escalation in these circumstances is unnecessary.»
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a ranking member on the Oversight Committee, asked to be a part of Comer’s call with Wray Wednesday afternoon, but Comer turned down his request, a source familiar with told NBC News. The issue.
In a statement to NBC, a spokesperson for the Oversight Committee argued that Raskin’s inclusion on the call would not be productive.
“This call is not another opportunity for Ranking Member Raskin to downplay whistleblower disclosures and undermine authorities at the very institution he represents,” the spokesperson said.
The Justice Department enforces any contempt citation, which means it is unlikely to follow House Oversight’s plans to hold Wray in contempt.
In an interview with «Fox and Friends» Wednesday morning, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., predicted that Comer was ready to go ahead with a vote to hold Wray in contempt. McCarthy said he personally called Wray and told him that he must comply with the subpoena.
“If you miss the deadline today, I am prepared to file contempt of Congress charges against you,” McCarthy said. “We have jurisdiction over this. He can send us that document.
“We have a right to see that, both Republicans and Democrats on that committee,” he added. «And if you break the law, we will file contempt charges against Christopher Wray and the FBI.»