FBI chief Wray rolls dice with Congress over contempt, then jets to Las Vegas
Bureau says director leaving Washington controversy behind for a few days to speak to counterterrorism experts, attend law enforcement memorial.
Just hours after informing Congress he wouldn't comply with a subpoena and turn over an informant document on the Biden family investigation, FBI Director Christopher Wray hopped on the bureau's Gulfstream jet and ferried off to the more friendly confines of Las Vegas.
The flight manifest for the FBI’s official jet shows Wray left the Washington suburb of Manassas, Va., at about 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday and landed about four hours later in Nevada’s most famous tourist city.
Agency officials said the jaunt was for official business and that Wray would be speaking to a conference of counterterrorism officials, meeting with the FBI’s Las Vegas field office, and attending a law-enforcement memorial ceremony.
"Director Wray is speaking to counterterrorism and law enforcement practitioners at a conference in Las Vegas to reinforce the continued importance of the counterterrorism mission and thank them for their service," the bureau's national press office in Washington told Just the News.
"He is also scheduled to meet with FBI employees from the Las Vegas Field office. There were changes made to the original itinerary to allow Director Wray to provide remarks at a 9/11 Line of Duty Death service on Friday."
The trip allows the FBI boss to escape an increasingly hostile atmosphere for himself in Washington, where congressional Republicans announced Wednesday that they would seek to hold Wray in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over a subpoenaed memo that lays out bribery allegations against President Biden.
The memo, known as an FD-1023 form, includes information provided to the bureau in June 2020 by a confidential human source alleging a bribery scheme involving Biden when he was vice president. Lawmakers learned about the existence of the memo from FBI whistleblowers.
Wray tried to defuse the situation earlier Wednesday in a phone call with House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, saying that while he would not comply with the subpoena by turning over the memo to Congress, he would allow lawmakers to visit FBI headquarters and look at it in a private room.
The FBI said Wray offered to provide Comer and Grassley "an opportunity to review information responsive to the subpoena in a secure manner to accommodate the committee, while protecting the confidentiality and safety of sources and important investigative sensitives."
The agency also said that it has "continually demonstrated its commitment to working with the Committee to accommodate its request, from scheduling briefings and calls to now allowing the Chair to review information in person."
The two lawmakers, who have been leading an investigation into the Biden family’s foreign business dealings, said Wray's offer was unacceptable and that Congress had every right to demand that the memo be turned over under a subpoena.
Comer made clear he plans to seek a contempt vote as early as next week in Congress.
"While the FBI has apparently leaked classified information to the news media in recent weeks, jeopardizing its own human sources, it continues to treat Congress like second-class citizens by refusing to provide a specific unclassified record," Grassley said.
Comer said lawmakers scored one victory Wednesday: Wray confirmed the existence of the FD-1023 memo the whistleblowers identified.
"Today, FBI Director Wray confirmed the existence of the FD-1023 form alleging then-Vice President Biden engaged in a criminal bribery scheme with a foreign national," the powerful House committee chairman said. "However, Director Wray did not commit to producing the documents subpoenaed by the House Oversight Committee.
"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," Comer continued. "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."
The standoff even got the Biden White House riled up – issuing a statement late Wednesday suggesting Republicans were being unreasonable and should not proceed to find Wray in contempt of Congress.
"This silly charade by Chairman Comer is yet another reminder that his so-called 'investigations' are political stunts not meant to get information but to spread thin innuendo and falsehoods to attack the President," White House spokesman Ian Sams said.
Comer has wide support for a contempt motion among fellow Republicans, from Speaker Kevin McCarthy to influential members of the House Intelligence Committee.
"The U.S. Congress is an equal branch of government. He's part of the Justice Department. Well, we constitutionally have the right to see the information that Comer has requested," Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., an intel panel member, told the "Just the News, No Noise" television show. "And the idea that the FBI director gets to determine what Congress does and doesn't get to see. That's not acceptable.
"And so I assume Director Wray will be given the choice to either comply — I haven't talked with Kevin about this — but I expect the speaker has probably made it very clear to him that he will either comply with what the request is, or Congress will have a contempt vote."
Bobby Charles, a former assistant secretary of state who worked as a congressional investigator during the 1990s when Bill Clinton was president, said Comer's contempt effort will likely succeed.
"This is a subpoena that the Congress in its oversight capacity and legislating capacity has every right to see," he said. "I think in the courts — and I was a Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals clerk — I think they will be vindicated. I think Congress, if they seek the enforcement of this subpoena, will be vindicated."