(WASHINGTON) — House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer said Monday he will initiate contempt of Congress hearings this week over FBI Director Chris Wray’s refusal to physically turn over a document that Republicans believe is related to President Joe Biden.
Comer’s announcement followed a briefing by FBI officials in which the Kentucky Republican and the Oversight Committee’s ranking Democrat, Jamie Raskin of Maryland, reviewed a document the House GOP thinks is linked to an alleged criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Biden — a suspicion the White House has dismissed.
Wray allowed the committee to review the document behind closed doors at the Capitol, which Comer accepted, but the FBI refused to leave it with the committee, Comer later told reporters, adding that he wants to release it publicly.
“Given the severity and complexity of the allegations contained within this record, Congress must investigate further,” Comer said, echoing a statement he made last month: “The American people need to know if President Biden sold out the United States of America to make money for himself.”
Comer said the hearings will begin Thursday.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on Fox News Monday night that the contempt process for Wray would first go through the Oversight Committee and then to the floor for a vote “next week.”
The Kentucky Republican said Monday that the document appeared to be part of an ongoing FBI investigation he assumes is taking place in Delaware, but when reporters asked him why he believes this, he did not say. (The president’s son Hunter Biden has been under investigation in Delaware for tax-related matters and whether he potentially lied on an application for a gun purchase but has maintained he “will be cleared of any wrongdoing.”)
Dated July 30, 2014, Comer claims there are multiple documents related to a bribery scheme originating in Romania, saying they come from a “highly credible informant” that has provided the FBI information since the Obama administration.
Comer and Raskin differed over the veracity of the underlying allegations, with Raskin in a statement on Monday calling them uncorroborated even after they were reviewed by authorities in 2020 — but Comer insisted they hadn’t been “disproven.”
Raskin said in his statement that the claims originated from a “highly credible” FBI source who was nonetheless relaying information secondhand from unidentified Ukrainians, with the FBI source taking no position on their reliability.
The House Oversight Committee initially subpoenaed the FBI last month for the documents. Comer sought an unclassified FD-1023 document, which is generally defined as a report from an informant.
The White House denounced the move as spreading “anonymous innuendo.”
“For going on five years now, Republicans in Congress have been lobbing unfounded, unproven, politically-motivated attacks against the President and his family without offering evidence for their claims or evidence of decisions influenced by anything other than U.S. interests,” White House spokesman Ian Sams said in May.
In a statement on Monday, Sams, like Raskin, said the accusations had been previously investigated.
“This is yet another fact-free stunt staged by Chairman Comer not to conduct legitimate oversight, but to spread thin innuendo to try to damage the President politically and get himself media attention,” he said.
The FBI has said it is working to provide information with House Republicans and “remains committed to cooperating with the Committee in good faith,” but they’ve raised concerns over broadcasting an FD-1023.
“Documenting the information does not validate it, establish its credibility, or weigh it against other information verified by the FBI. Revealing unverified or possibly incomplete information could harm investigations, prejudice prosecutions or judicial proceedings, unfairly violate privacy or reputations, create misimpressions in the public, or potentially identify individuals who provide information to law enforcement,” the bureau said last week.
In a statement on Monday, an FBI spokesperson reiterated that they are working with the House committee by allowing the document to be reviewed by lawmakers. They said such an arrangement was a “commonsense safeguard” that protected sources and investigations.
“The escalation to a contempt vote under these circumstances is unwarranted,” a spokesperson said.
While Comer took a strong stance against Wray and the FBI, Raskin had words for the chairman as well.
“I’m just surprised that my colleagues want to try to litigate this in public,” he told reporters Monday. “Much less hold the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in contempt for complying with their request.”
If Congress sends a contempt referral to the Department of Justice, criminal charges could be pursued against Wray.
Raskin also poured cold water on the idea that the multiple-page document he and Comer reviewed has anything to do with a Romanian bribery scheme.
“Unfortunately, I don’t know what he’s referring to,” Raskin said of Comer. “We, of course, have a problem within our committee, which we feel is that we’ve been closed out of these investigations.”
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.