September 25, 2023

FBI director says Republican allegations of FBI bias are ‘insane’

FBI Director Christopher Wray sits in front of a screen showing Rep.  Jim Jordan can be seen.

FBI Director Christopher Wray Listens to Committee Chair Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, at a House Judiciary Committee on FBI oversight on Capitol Hill on July 12. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday rejected Republican claims that the nation’s top law enforcement agency is being used in a political way to discriminate against conservatives, and also criticized mistakes made at the FBI under his predecessor James Comey.

“The FBI has no interest in protecting anyone politically,” Wray told the House Judiciary Committee during more than three hours of testimony.

Wray also said the FBI is “absolutely not” “arming” government assets against Americans. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has created a special subcommittee to investigate what he has labeled the “arming of the federal government.”

“You’ve personally worked to arm the FBI against conservatives,” Representative Harriet Hageman, R-Wyo., told Wray.

Wray, a longtime member of the Federalist Society — a conservative legal group — scoffed. “The idea that I’m biased against conservatives seems a little crazy to me, given my own personal background,” he replied.

Republicans blame Wray for mistakes made under his predecessor

Rep.  Chip Roy walks in front of the Capitol, surrounded by a pack of reporters.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, addresses reporters on Capitol Hill on April 25. (Julia Nikhinson/Reuters)

Nevertheless, the Republicans on the committee filed a wide variety of charges against Wray and the FBI, often focusing on problems at the FBI that took place under Wray’s predecessor, James Comey, who was fired in 2017 by former President Donald Trump.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, told the story of a former FBI attorney who was sentenced to 12 months of probation in 2021 for altering an email as part of a search warrant during the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“As the director of the FBI, those are the facts of the FBI under your control,” Roy said.

“No, no, sir, it’s important: not in my care,” Wray told Roy.

Wray criticizes former FBI Director Comey

Former FBI Director James Comey, surrounded by reporters and their microphones.

Former FBI Director James Comey addresses the media on Dec. 7, 2018, after making a private statement before the House Judiciary and House Government and Oversight Committees on Capitol Hill. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

At various points during the hearing, Wray offered some of the most candid criticisms of the Comey era at the FBI that he had uttered since being appointed by Trump in 2017.

“I am very aware of the fact that the whole reason I have this job is because my predecessor was fired and, in a rather damning report from the Inspector General, one of the things he was criticized for was sharing of more information — both with the public and, frankly, with Congress — that was in accordance with federal rules,” Wray said.

Wray was undeterred in his condemnation of the FBI’s mistakes i
n the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, which was called to investigate ties between the Russian government and contacts in the 2016 Trump campaign.

Former Special Counsel John Durham released a report in May finding that “the FBI had serious deficiencies in its handling of significant aspects of the Crossfire Hurricane issue.”

Wray didn’t mince words: “I consider the behavior described in the Durham report to be totally unacceptable and not representative of what I see every day from the FBI, and must never happen again.”

Questions about ‘radical traditionalist Catholic ideology’

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies in front of a screen showing him and those around him during the hearing.

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee hearing. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Jordan and other Republicans spent little time asking questions about some of the bigger issues he and others on the right have spoken about on right-wing media outlets, such as allegations of an IRS whistleblower that an investigation into President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden , had “walked slowly.”

Jordan previously asked about an internal memo written by an FBI field office in Richmond that warned of “radical traditionalist Catholic ideology.”

Wray condemned the memo as “appalling” and said it “as far as we can tell, has not led to any investigative action, none.”

“As soon as I found out, I was stunned and ordered it removed,” Wray said. He said the FBI is conducting an internal review of the case and plans to inform Congress this summer.

Jordan shows partial information about Bank of America requests

Jordan also hammered out requests from the FBI to Bank of America for information about customer transactions on January 15, 2021. But he selectively showed information from an email from the FBI to a Bank of America official.

A manipulated image of the email showed that only two of the search criteria submitted to Bank of America by the FBI. The two criteria were “purchases of weapons or weapons-related suppliers” in the previous six months, and among that group, those who made purchases in Washington, D.C., on January 5 or 6, 2021.

Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, looks bored at his desk.

Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, listens Wednesday to FBI Director Christopher Wray testifying on Wednesday. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

“I’m just nervous about that,” said Jordan, who viewed the FBI’s data requests as overly broad and intrusive.

On January 6, 2021, Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in a violent attack to try to reverse Trump’s loss in the 2020 election.

It wasn’t until more than an hour later during the hearing, after Democrats asked Jordan to show an unmanipulated image of the email, that Jordan showed the full email. Other search criteria included hotel and AirBNB reservations in the Washington, DC area on or around Inauguration Day – January 20, 2021 – and the purchase of airline tickets to DC around Inauguration Day.

“The intent,” the full email read, “is to identify all potential networks of threats versus individual threats for Inauguration Day and beyond.”

By focusing on only half of the search terms, Jordan’s presentation initially gave the impression that the query was much broader than it actually was.

Claims of censorship

Many Republicans at the hearing accused the FBI of censoring US social media content. But GOP claims often went beyond the facts.

Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., claimed that FBI agents were removing online content they didn’t like. “Your agents grabbed it from the internet,” Johnson said.

Rep.  Mike Johnson and other committee members under a poster emphasizing the words: The most massive attack on free speech in United States history.

Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., center, with Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., on his left, addresses a House Judiciary Committee hearing on July 12, as FBI Director Wray testifies before the committee amid calls from hardline conservatives for his impeachment. (Al Drago/Bloomberg)

There is no proof of this claim. Internal communications revealed this week in the Twitter files and in a House Judiciary Committee report revealed that the FBI and other government agencies — including Trump White House and Biden White House officials — are communicating with social media companies about potentially inaccurate contents.

“We are not asking social media companies to censor or suppress information,” Wray said. “We are very clear that it is up to the social media companies.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *