House Oversight Committee chair James Comer (R-Ky.) had planned to initiate contempt proceedings against Wray on Thursday if the bureau refused to provide a form documenting an unverified tip that Joe Biden took a bribe when he was vice president.
The Justice Department offered to brief all members of the House Oversight Committee about the document after having briefed just Comer and the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.), on Monday.
Comer had said he would still seek to hold Wray in contempt if he didn’t let the committee have its own copy of the form, but Comer said late Wednesday that he had accepted the all-member briefing.
“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,” Comer said in a news release.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) suggested this week that if the full oversight committee could see the document, “then there’s no need for contempt,” and Comer had seemed open to the idea.
“The speaker makes the ultimate call,” Comer told HuffPost on Tuesday. “But obviously, the more eyes that lay on it, the better.”
According to both Comer and Raskin, a reliable FBI source told the bureau in June 2020 that someone else told him that, sometime during his vice presidency, Biden took a $5 million bribe from someone in Ukraine, but the source could not corroborate the information. Former president Donald Trump’s attempt to pressure the Ukrainian president to push a similar story about the Biden family’s corruption in Ukraine led to Trump’s first impeachment.
The FBI’s refusal to hand over the document had become the latest talking point supporting the sweeping GOP narrative that the federal government’s lead law enforcement agency and the entire Justice Department has been “weaponized” by liberals against all they consider good in American life — especially Trump and his supporters.
“If this document were incriminating a political opponent versus a political ally, it wouldn’t have to be subpoenaed,” Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) told HuffPost. “It would have long since been leaked and disclosed to the public.”
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), a moderate Republican and former FBI agent, said he’d been trying to help the two sides reach a deal, potentially by redacting identifying information.
“We can achieve compliance with the subpoena while simultaneously protecting the source,” Fitzpatrick told HuffPost. “I’m the only FBI agent in Congress, so I’m offering my perspective to help all sides facilitate a resolution.”
Comer told HuffPost on Tuesday that he didn’t care who the source of the tip was. He said that when he viewed the document on Monday, the FBI’s redactions were a problem.
“They redacted information that I believe would pinpoint the banks and the location of where this bribe actually happened,” Comer said.
At the same time, Comer admitted that he doesn’t know if the bribery allegation is true, just that it fits a pattern of shell companies funneling payments from foreign sources to members of Biden’s family — a pattern that Comer has documented through bank records, but one that hasn’t implicated Biden himself. The tip implicating the president is the missing link.
“My belief is that Christopher Wray and high-ranking FBI officials never even knew this form [documenting the tip] existed until I requested it,” Comer said. “Therefore, no one vetted this allegation because it’s kind of hard to believe.”
Raskin, the top Democrat on the committee, said the material had been funneled to the FBI by Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and that Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, signed off on closing the case in August 2020.
The Oversight Committee said Tuesday that the DOJ assessed material it received in 2020, around the time Barr confirmed the FBI was looking at Giuliani’s material, but that the form Republicans are trying to subpoena was created by an FBI agent in June 2020 “based on another FBI record from 2017.”
This week, Barr told The Federalist that the assessment wasn’t closed down and that it was instead “sent to Delaware for further investigation.”
Raskin doubled down on Wednesday, saying the FBI had told him that the form created in June 2020 pretty much echoed Giuliani’s material and that the allegation against Biden went nowhere — even if the FBI is using the material in another investigation, as Comer has insisted.
“The FBI confirmed that much of this information was the same as information Mr. Giuliani had previously provided,” Raskin said in a lengthy statement, concluding that “the key fact shared by the FBI in its briefing was that the assessment opened in January 2020 to evaluate Mr. Giuliani’s allegations against President Biden and his son was closed in August 2020.”