Jordan presses Wray on FBI memo about 'radical traditional Catholics'
Jordan says Republicans will oppose FISA reauthorization without significant reforms, particularly to section 702
FBI Director Christopher Wray told a House panel on Wednesday that the agency's top 8 officials of its "leadership team" aren't political appointees and they reflect "the best" of the organization that's made of "patriots."
Wray's agency has come under fire after Special Counsel John Durham's final report found that the FBI lacked enough evidence to open the 2016 Russia collusion probe. It also found that the agency abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) has argued that the FBI hasn't done enough to prevent the same scenario from playing out again. Jordan said on Wednesday that Republicans will oppose FISA reauthorization in "its current form" without significant reforms, particularly to section 702.
Jordan cited a U.S. court that found the FBI improperly searched a database containing information on American citizens suspected of crimes 278,000 times over the last several years.
"I hope our Democrat friends will join us in opposing reauthorization of section 702 the way it's currently done and I think they will," he said. "I hope they will work with us in the appropriations process to stop the weaponization of the government against the American people and end this double standard of justice."
Committee Ranking Member Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said the committee has become a "theater," arguing that there isn't enough to evidence to prove the FBI has been biased against Trump and conservatives in its actions.
Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz confronted Wray with the number of times the FBI allegedly misused the FISA database and asked how many occurred under his watch. Wray declined to confirm a specific number or explain why the illegal searches happened.
"Again, I don't have the numbers as I sit here right now," he said.
Gaetz shot back, saying, "It seems like a number you should know, how many times the FBI is breaking the law under your watch."
Wray said that some individuals have been disciplined for misusing the database but he declined to elaborate.
Later in the hearing, Wray acknowledged there have been "failures" related to FISA and said the agency has implemented reforms that have led to "significant improvement" in terms of compliance.
"We're going to keep working on this," he said. "This is an incredibly important tool to protect the American people from very serious foreign threats."
The White House has called for reauthorization of FISA's section 702 program.
California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa asked Wray if one or more FBI agents entered the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 and Wray would not answer. He instead referred Issa to court filings. Other lawmakers asked similar questions and Wray said his office would make the relevant court filings available to the committee.
Throughout the hearing, Wray emphasized that the overall law enforcement operation that the FBI's workforce of 38,000 is doing has been effective, from record fentanyl seizures to taking violent criminals off the streets.
Jordan pressed Wray on the Richmond FBI field office memo about "radical traditional Catholics" and the far-right. Wray said that the memo is subject to an "internal review" and he "ordered it removed from the FBI systems."
Wray said the memo didn't result in any specific investigative action.
Jordan asked if the committee will be able to obtain a redacted copy of the memo and speak to the FBI employees who wrote it, but Wray declined to answer the question. Instead, Wray said the FBI would brief the committee on the findings of the internal investigation.
"That product is not something I will defend or excuse," he said.