The House is closer to holding FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress for not producing a document said to detail a $5 million bribery allegation against President Joe Biden involving a foreign national.
House Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., subpoenaed the FBI on May 3 for information about the alleged arrangement of an exchange of money for a “policy outcome” between the unnamed foreign national and Biden, who at the time was serving as vice president under President Barack Obama.
Comer later specified that the alleged bribe was for $5 million.
The FBI missed Comer’s initial deadline for producing the requested documentation and was about to miss a subsequent deadline when the Kentucky Republican provided an update.
“Today, the FBI informed the committee that it will not provide the unclassified documents subpoenaed by the committee,” Comer said in a public statement Tuesday.
“The FBI’s decision to stiff-arm Congress and hide this information from the American people is obstructionist and unacceptable,” Comer added. “While I have a call scheduled with FBI Director Wray tomorrow to discuss his response further, the committee has been clear in its intent to protect congressional oversight authorities and will now be taking steps to hold the FBI director in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a lawful subpoena.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., warned Wray in remarks to reporters Tuesday as well as on Twitter.
“I have a message for FBI Director Christopher Wray: If he misses today’s deadline to turn over subpoenaed documents to Congress, I am prepared to move contempt charges against him,” McCarthy tweeted.
Wray reportedly plans to hold a phone call with Comer on Wednesday, one day after the FBI’s May 30 deadline to answer the subpoena before facing a citation for contempt of Congress.
An FBI whistleblower first approached the office of Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, about a filled-out FBI form, called an FD-1023, detailing the bribery allegation. Grassley, co-chairman of the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus, forwarded the information to Comer, whose House committee has subpoena power.
Although Democrats retain a thin majority in the Senate, Republicans hold the House as a result of the midterm elections in November.
“Why wouldn’t the FBI budge when it’s an unclassified document, and it has some accusations in it against then-Vice President Biden?” Grassley told The Daily Signal in an interview earlier this month. “Remember, the whistleblower isn’t giving us their opinion. They’ve actually read the document.”
The White House has pushed back against House Republicans’ bid for the FBI form.
“Innuendo and baseless rumor-mongering define the extreme MAGA House GOP ‘investigations’ of President Biden,” Ian Sams, a White House spokesman for oversight and investigations, tweeted Tuesday.
In a May 24 letter to the FBI’s Wray, Comer threatened a contempt citation if the bureau didn’t respond by May 30, but also accommodated the FBI by narrowing the terms.
The FBI’s refusal to produce this single document is obstructionist. Nevertheless, to narrow the breadth of the subpoena, we are providing additional terms based on unclassified and legally protected whistleblower disclosures that may be referenced in the FD-1023 form: ‘June 30, 2020’ and ‘five million.’ These terms relate to the date on the FD-1023 form and its reference to the amount of money the foreign national allegedly paid to receive the desired policy outcome.
The oversight committee originally sought the document from the FBI on May 3. However, the FBI missed its May 10 deadline to provide it.
In a May 10 letter, Christopher Dunham, the FBI’s acting assistant director for congressional affairs, told Comer that the FBI is willing to “coordinate with your staff to discuss whether and how we can accommodate your request without violating our law enforcement and national security obligations.”
Justice Department policy, Dunham added, “strictly limits when and how confidential human source information can be provided outside of the FBI.”
Grassley, in the interview with The Daily Signal, said he saw no reason for the FBI to withhold the document.
“Since it’s unclassified, and the FBI has admitted it’s unclassified and have admitted it’s a real document, why shouldn’t we get it?” Grassley said. “We are getting a runaround.”
The Iowa Republican declined to give specifics about the foreign national’s home country and the purported policy change sought. Comer has said he is aware of those two elements.
“The whistleblower is just a credible source to start an investigation and told us about what’s possibly in it,” Grassley said. “Obviously, until I get the document, I can’t speak with only [the] indications I’ve gotten from the whistleblower. It indicates some possible criminal activity.”
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