Christopher Wray, FBI Director, refused to turn over documents regarding Biden bribery scheme to House Oversight Committee.
House Republicans are engaged in an escalating standoff with the FBI over an unreleased document that connects Vice President Joe Biden to a “bribery scheme.” House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., said he’s seen enough to move forward with plans for a contempt hearing against FBI Director Christopher Wray over his handling of a GOP-led investigation into President Biden and his family, setting the matter for a Thursday meeting.
The document has ties to a Trump-era inquiry that concluded without further action. The House Oversight Committee is set to vote on holding FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress for refusing to provide lawmakers with a copy of the document. This confrontation between House Republicans and the FBI signifies a new phase in Chairman James Comer’s investigation into Biden’s affairs, as Republicans seek to establish a direct link between the president’s decision-making and payments received by his family members.
“At the briefing, the FBI again refused to hand over the unclassified record to the custody of the House Oversight Committee, and we will now initiate contempt of Congress hearings this Thursday,” Comer told reporters.
The Standoff Deepens
House Republicans, who control the oversight panel, have the ability to advance the contempt resolution if most of their members remain united. Speaker Kevin McCarthy has pledged to bring the resolution to the House floor. However, it is highly unlikely that the Biden administration’s Justice Department would pursue criminal charges, even if Wray were found in contempt. Despite the Republicans’ move toward a historic contempt vote, they have provided few specific details regarding the allegations contained in the Biden document. Chairman Comer, along with Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, the panel’s top Democrat, had the opportunity to review the document during a briefing with FBI officials.
Comer asserts that the document has not been disproven and aligns with the scope of his broader probe, which focuses on payments received by Biden family members from various companies and foreign governments. Although Comer did not disclose the country involved in the document’s allegations or clarify its relation to Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company where Hunter Biden served on the board, he suggested that the accusation fits a pattern observed in other countries. Raskin, on the other hand, accuses Chairman Comer of recycling discredited conspiracy theories about Burisma propagated by Rudy Giuliani and a Russian agent, sanctioned by the Trump administration’s Treasury Department, in an effort to smear President Biden and aid Trump’s re-election campaign.
The FBI, in a statement, called the decision to move forward with a vote “unwarranted,” adding that the bureau “has continually demonstrated its commitment to accommodate the committee’s request, including by producing the document in a reading room at the U.S. Capitol.”
Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin the panel’s top Democrat who attended the briefing with Comer, said FBI officials told both of them that the document was vetted by the Trump-era DOJ by then-U.S. attorney Scott Brady. At the time, Brady was tasked with vetting information from then-President Donald Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
“We now know what I had long suspected: that Chairman Comer’s subpoena is about recycling stale and debunked Burisma conspiracy theories long peddled by Rudy Giuliani and a Russian agent, sanctioned by former President Trump’s own Treasury Department, as part of the effort to smear President Biden and help Mr. Trump’s reelection campaign,” Raskin said in a statement.
Details of the Document
The document in question details conversations between the source and individuals in Ukraine. It also includes an admission by the source to the FBI that they could not offer an opinion on the veracity of the information provided by these Ukrainian individuals. The document at the center of the contempt dispute was created during a June 2020 re-interview with the informant, as DOJ and FBI officials sought existing information related to the inquiry. While the FBI privately informed lawmakers that the Brady inquiry concluded in August 2020, House Republicans are seeking further clarification on the broader assessment and specific investigative steps taken regarding the June 2020 document.
House Republicans firmly believe that additional FBI documents related to the claims exist, based on the details within the June 2020 document. A GOP Oversight staffer distanced the panel’s investigation from Giuliani’s efforts, emphasizing that Giuliani’s name does not appear in the document.
The Origins of the Contempt Fight
In early May, Chairman Comer and Senator Chuck Grassley announced that the FBI possessed material outlining an alleged criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Biden and a foreign national. This scheme purportedly involved the exchange of money for policy decisions. Simultaneously, Comer issued a subpoena to the FBI, compelling them to provide any FD-1023 forms from June 2020 that contain the term “Biden.” It is important to note that these forms, regardless of their content, do not independently constitute evidence of wrongdoing. While Comer has seen the document, he does not possess it.
Comer recently informed the bureau that the search parameters could be narrowed to June 30, 2020, and requested the addition of the search term “five million.”
The seeds of the Wray contempt fight were planted in early May when Comer and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said that the FBI had material outlining “an alleged criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Biden and a foreign national relating to the exchange of money for policy decisions.”
Comer simultaneously subpoenaed the FBI to compel the bureau to hand over any so-called FD-1023 forms — the formal term for records that describe conversations with a confidential human source — from June 2020 that contain the word “Biden.”
The forms themselves, regardless of their content, do not independently amount to evidence of wrongdoing. Comer has seen the document at issue but does not have it in his possession.
Comer also told the bureau late last month that it could narrow the search date to June 30, 2020, and add the search term “five million.” That number, the Republican said, was a “reference to the amount of money the foreign national allegedly paid to receive the desired policy outcome.”
Comer and Grassley initially offered scant details about the identity of the “highly credible” whistleblower who made them aware of the document, or how that person would have knowledge of the FBI document detailing a conversation with a confidential source.
But Comer colored in a few details after Monday’s briefing, saying that the FBI called the informant behind the document “trusted and highly credible,” adding that the person was paid six figures by the bureau and has a relationship with the FBI dating back to the Obama years. Comer said that it appears the document is currently being used in an “ongoing investigation,” one that he assumed was the years-long federal probe involving Hunter Biden.
Republicans have said they want to publicly release the document if the FBI gives it to the committee. The bureau has countered that revealing unverified information could have a potential range of negative consequences – including harming active investigations or informants, as well as affecting prosecutions or court cases.
And the FBI has warned that the forms are used to “record unverified reporting by a confidential human source” and that “documenting the information does not validate it, establish its credibility, or weigh it against other information verified by the FBI.”