House Pulls Back Wray Contempt Charge 06/08 06:12
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee
on Wednesday called off a vote on a contempt of Congress charge against FBI
Director Christopher Wray, accepting a last-minute offer by the bureau to allow
the full committee access to a confidential document of an unverified tip about
President Joe Biden.
Rep. James Comer said in a statement that the committee is removing a
contempt resolution against Wray from Thursday's schedule after receiving an
accommodation that would give the full committee access to the document.
"Allowing all Oversight Committee members to review this record is an
important step toward conducting oversight of the FBI and holding it
accountable to the American people," the Kentucky Republican said.
The action that played out over the last month against Wray reflects a
larger breakdown between Republicans and the FBI that has only intensified this
year, with some conservatives talking openly about trying to defund the bureau.
It's a rift that first opened during the Russia investigation of
then-President Donald Trump and has only widened amid the FBI's wide-ranging
criminal investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol,
which some Republicans view as overly zealous and politicized.
The FBI made the last-ditch effort to ward off the contempt vote Wednesday,
offering to give every lawmaker on the oversight committee access to a redacted
version of a confidential document that alleges a bribery scheme involving
then-Vice President Joe Biden and a foreign national. That's according to a
person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to discuss it publicly
and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
It was unclear until late Wednesday if Comer would accept the offer even as
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said that would suffice.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on oversight committee, said in a
statement Wednesday that he's happy Comer accepted the "good faith" offer from
the FBI but warned his colleague across the aisle of the precedent his actions
leading up to this could set.
"Holding someone in contempt of Congress is among the most serious actions
our Committee can take and it should not be weaponized to undermine the FBI,"
The FBI has called the contempt vote unwarranted considering the bureau had
"continuously demonstrated its commitment to accommodate the committee's
request," while protecting the safety of sources and the integrity of ongoing
But Comer had consistently said for the past month that the only way for the
FBI to comply with the subpoena is to provide an unredacted copy of the
document. It's unclear what made him change course at the last minute.
FBI officials have already shown a redacted version of the several-page form
to Comer and Raskin during a 90-minute briefing Monday. The bureau described
that briefing as an "extraordinary accommodation" where both men were able to
take notes on the document and ask questions.
The whole contempt fight over the document moved at an unusually rapid speed
for the House. Committees often battle for months with an agency or a witness
before resorting to contempt proceedings, often haggling over an
"accommodation" that is considered compliance with a subpoena. Republicans
moved far faster, arriving at contempt a little over a month after issuing the
subpoena to Wray on May 3.
It would have been the first time Republicans had used the contempt power
against a federal official since taking control of the House in January, but
would be far from a rare occurrence in the House.
Democrats wielded the power of contempt memorably in the last Congress as
part of the committee investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the
Capitol. Steve Bannon, a longtime ally of former President Donald Trump, was
convicted by a jury on contempt charges last year after a referral from the
House Jan. 6 committee. Another former Trump official, Peter Navarro, is
awaiting trial on a contempt charge as well. He has pleaded not guilty.
The Biden document at the center of the new dispute was written up by a
longtime FBI source whom both Republicans and Democrats have described as
credible. In it, the source details an unverified tip received in 2020 about
the business dealings of Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, in Ukraine. Hunter
Biden worked on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company.