WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairman of the House Oversight Committee said Tuesday he is moving forward with holding FBI Director Chris Wray in contempt of Congress because the department has not turned over a bureau record that purports to relate to President Joe Biden and his family.
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., criticized the federal law enforcement agency after he said his committee was told it would not gain access to an unclassified form that describes “an alleged criminal scheme” involving the president and a foreign national.
“The FBI’s decision to stiff-arm Congress and hide this information from the American people is obstructionist and unacceptable,” Comer said in a statement.
In response, the FBI said in a statement that it remains committed to cooperating with lawmakers in “good faith,” and that “any discussion of escalation under these circumstances is unnecessary.”
The FBI said it offered to give the Oversight committee “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.”
The bureau called that offer “an extraordinary accommodation.”
Comer and Wray are scheduled to speak by phone on Wednesday amid the standoff.
Calls to move forward with contempt were elevated by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy earlier Tuesday, who told Fox News that he had personally called Wray to urge the release of the document to Congress.
“If he does not act, he’s not above the law. He’s not above Congress. And we will hold him in contempt. Now I want to be very clear about that,” McCarthy said.
Comer subpoenaed Wray earlier this month seeking a specific FBI form from June 2020 that is a report of conversations or interactions with a confidential source. These reports are routine, contain uncorroborated and unvetted information and do not on their own establish any wrongdoing.
In a May 3 letter to Wray with Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Comer said that “it has come to our attention” that the bureau has such 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 and includes “a precise description” about it.
Comer and Grassley said those “disclosures” demand further investigation, and they want to know whether the FBI investigated and, if so, what agents found.
The subpoena seeks all so-called FD-1023 forms and accompanying attachments and documents.
Democrats on the Oversight committee called Comer’s narrative of the FBI obstructing “a radical distortion of the situation.” And they accused the chairman of stonewalling them from the call with Wray on Wednesday.
“This subpoenaed document, by definition, reveals nothing more than an unverified and unsubstantiated tip made to Donald Trump’s Justice Department, which presumably led to no evidence of criminal wrongdoing,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the top Democrat on the committee, said in a statement late Tuesday.
The lawmakers used the word “alleged” three times in the opening paragraph of the letter and offered no evidence of the veracity of the accusations or any details about what they contend are “highly credible unclassified whistleblower disclosures.”
The White House has called the subpoena effort further evidence of how congressional Republicans long “have been lobbing unfounded, unproven, politically motivated attacks” against the Biden family “without offering evidence for their claims or evidence of decisions influenced by anything other than U.S. interests.”
A contempt of Congress charge would require a full committee vote before going to the House floor.
If the House were to approve a contempt resolution against Wray, the decision about whether to prosecute him would fall to prosecutors in the Justice Department, where Wray works.