Pressure mounts on Wray as FBI behavior in Russia case comes into clearer focus
'Director Wray owes the American people an explanation about the FBI’s misconduct,' Rep. Jim Jordan declares.
May 3, 2020 - 10:56pm
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
Back in early 2018, the FBI under newly minted Director Chris Wray issued an extraordinarily rare public rebuke of a sitting House committee chairman.
Then-House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes had just issued a memo concluding that the FBI under Wray’s predecessor, James Comey, abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act process to improperly spy on President Trump’s campaign.
Wray fired back, even though the issues didn’t happen on his watch, suggesting Nunes had given an inaccurate picture to the American public.
“We have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,” the bureau said in a statement that reverberated across America, especially with mainstream media that had pushed the faulty Russia collusion narrative for months.
Now two years later, Nunes’ memo has been vindicated by the belated release of classified information and a Justice Department inspector general's report that confirmed systematic FISA abuses and much wider problems inside the FBI.
Lawmakers, particularly Republicans, have expressed grave concerns about Wray’s leadership, his reluctance to recognize the magnitude of problems inside the bureau exposed by the Russia case fallout, and his slow release of information, which some see as foot-dragging.
“There is so much underneath the surface of the ocean, this iceberg that we haven’t even seen yet,” Rep. Andy Biggs, a House Judiciary Committee member and chairman of the influential Freedom Caucus, told Just the News. “And when you get back to Christopher Wray, that is part of my frustration. … More has to be declassified.”
“I have had access to 302s [FBI interview reports] that I have asked, for gosh a good year or so -- and I know others have too-- that they would declassify those. And they keep telling us, 'yeah they are in the process,' and they never declassify them,” Biggs said in a wide-ranging interview with the John Solomon Reports podcast. “They’ve got to be declassified.
The IG report in December and subsequent declassified information showed the FBI engaged in 17 major mistakes and acts of misconduct in seeking a FISA warrant to spy on the Trump campaign starting in October 2016, including the falsification of a document, the submission of false information to a court, and the submission of unsubstantiated evidence in a warrant application marked as “verified.”
In addition, newly declassified footnotes from the report showed the FBI had strong reasons to distrust the information in Christopher Steele’s dossier — including denials from his main source and warnings he was being fed Russian disinformation — but nonetheless proceeded to use the dossier as the key evidence in seeking a year’s worth of surveillance warrants.
The problems exposed during the Russia case started with the Comey regime, but have stretched into Wray’s watch. An IG report last fall flagged widespread failures in the FBI’s handling of confidential human sources like Steele.
And a new IG report a few weeks ago found that 29 of 29 FISA applications — many filed during Wray’s tenure — contained significant flaws that violated the bureau’s own rules designed to ensure the accuracy of evidence submitted to the courts.
The concerns about Wray were exacerbated by the revelations last week — from documents long withheld from a federal court — that FBI agents had recommended in January 2017 closing down a Russia-related probe of Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for lack of evidence, only to be overruled by the bureau’s leadership.
The extraordinary intervention of FBI leaders — then under the command of Comey and his deputy Andrew McCabe — led one official to write handwritten notes questioning whether the bureau was “playing games” and trying to get Flynn to lie “so we could prosecute him, or get him fired.”
The double-barreled revelations about FISA and Flynn have left Republican lawmakers with grave concerns about Wray’s leadership and his willingness to recognize the magnitude of problems inside the bureau exposed by the Russia case fallout.
“Director Wray owes the American people an explanation about the FBI’s misconduct with General Flynn,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. “It’s becoming more and more apparent that the FBI ruined the life of a respected general in its goal to take down President Trump."
Jordan added: “The FBI’s actions were part of a larger pattern of wrongdoing, which were all directed against the president and his advisers. If they can do it to a president, they can do it to any of us.”
Flynn’s lawyer, Sidney Powell, was even more harsh in her assessment, accusing Wray’s FBI of hiding the truth.
"Wray knew about the evidence we were requesting for General Flynn," Powell told Just the News. "My request was even discussed in the Director's meeting. Most of what has been produced so far and what will be produced has been in FBI files all along--now more than three years. If the Prosecutors refused to produce it, he should have taken it to the AG or filed a whistle blower complaint himself. Instead, it would appear he was part of a conspiracy to obstruct justice and Congress, and we don't know what else."
FBI officials have declined comment on the Flynn evidence. But his defenders are quick to note he has referred all FBI employees involved in the Russia FISAs for disciplinary investigation and implemented more than 40 reforms to the FISA process to address concerns uncovered in the Russia case.
Still, some inside and outside the bureau are concerned that Wray has not been vocal enough in acknowledging clear failures on his predecessor’s watch and has instead created the perception of coverup with the slow, uneven release of information demanded by the courts and Congress.
Biggs said lawmakers like himself are losing patience with Wray's failure to declassify more evidence. They want the information released so that the antiseptic of disclosure deters the future temptation to repeat what happened in the Russia case fiasco, he said.
“More has got to be declassified for the American people to understand why big government, why closed secret courts and processes are dangerous to the republic,” Biggs said.
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