House Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) said Tuesday he plans to bring contempt of Congress proceedings against FBI Director Christopher Wray after the FBI refused to comply with a subpoena from the committee.
Comer issued a subpoena earlier this month compelling Wray to produce any FD-1023 forms — records of interactions with confidential sources — from June 2020 that contain the word “Biden.”
“Today the FBI informed the committee that it will not provide the unclassified statements subpoenaed by the committee. The FBI’s decision to stiff-arm Congress and hide this information from the American people is obstructionist and unacceptable,” Comer said in a statement released on Twitter.
Though Comer and Wray plan to speak about the subpoena Wednesday, Comer said he still plans to bring the issue for a vote in committee.
“While I have a call scheduled with FBI Director Wray tomorrow to discuss his response further, the committee has been clear in its intent to protect congressional oversight authorities and will now be taking steps to hold the FBI director in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a lawful subpoena,” he said.
In a Tuesday statement, the FBI called the plan an unnecessary escalation.
“The FBI remains committed to cooperating with the Committee in good faith. In a letter to Chairman Comer earlier today, the FBI committed to providing access to information responsive to the Committee’s subpoena in a format and setting that maintains confidentiality and protects important security interests and the integrity of FBI investigations,” the agency said.
“Any discussion of escalation under these circumstances is unnecessary.”
The committee would have to approve such a measure, which would then go to the full House for a vote.
But the move would likely result in little more than a formal admonishment. It’s up to the Department of Justice whether to take the referral from Congress regarding prosecution, meaning Attorney General Merrick Garland is responsible for determining whether to take aim at a top law enforcement official.
Though Comer cast Wray’s response as a refusal, a Tuesday letter from the FBI to the chairman obtained by The Hill, the bureau said it has “identified additional information that we are prepared to offer the committee as an extraordinary accommodation.”
It’s unclear what that information might be.
Comer has claimed the form contains information related to “an alleged criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Biden and a foreign national relating to the exchange of money for policy decisions.”
But the letter from the bureau, signed by Acting Assistant Director Christopher Dunham, stressed that the form relays an unverified tip.
“Recording the information does not validate the information, establish its credibility, or weigh it against other information known or developed by the FBI,” Dunham wrote, adding that releasing the information could influence “the public’s perception of the impartiality of the law enforcement process.”
The letter also breaks down the message the bureau relayed in a briefing to the committee, casting the need to protect confidential sources as a national security matter.
“We explained the significant limits on whether, when, and how confidential human source information can be provided outside of the FBI, and how those limits are critical to the physical safety of our sources and others identified in source reporting, as well as to the integrity of our confidential human source program and longstanding Department of Justice confidentiality interests,” the letter states.
“The Deputy Assistant Director expressed the FBI’s concern over the chilling effect that could flow from the wide dissemination of investigative files, to include reduced willingness of confidential human sources to provide valuable reporting. As you know, confidential sources are critical to the FBI’s ability to build cases, including those against violent gangs, drug cartels, and terrorists.”
Comer’s statement came just hours after Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said he would bring a contempt vote to the floor.
“So let me not just tell you. Let me tell Director Christopher Wray, right here, right now: If he misses the deadline today, I am prepared to move contempt charges in Congress against him,” McCarthy said Tuesday on Fox News.
“Comer subpoenaed the document that he has requested. We have jurisdiction over the FBI, which they seem to act like we do not. I personally called Director Wray and told him: He needs to send that document. Today is the deadline,” McCarthy added.
Emily Brooks contributed.
Updated at 6:30 p.m.