FBI director speaks with congressional Republicans about Biden document dispute
Jun 1, 2023, 5:00 AM | Updated: 9:20 am
(CNN) — FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday offered to let House Oversight Chair James Comer view an internal law enforcement document at FBI headquarters that Republicans believe will shed light on an allegation that then-Vice President Joe Biden was involved in a criminal scheme with a foreign national, the chairman said in a statement.
The document has origins in a tranche of documents that Rudy Giuliani provided to the Justice Department in 2020, people briefed on the matter said.
The allegations of wrongdoing by the then-vice president, many originating from sources in Ukraine, were dubious enough that Attorney General William Barr in early 2020 directed that they be reviewed by a US attorney in Pittsburgh, in part because Barr was concerned that Giuliani’s document tranche could taint the ongoing Hunter Biden investigation overseen by the Delaware US attorney.
Barr told reporters at the time why he was being cautious: “We can’t take anything we received from Ukraine at face value.”
Former Pittsburgh US Attorney Scott Brady oversaw the FBI investigation of the Giuliani claims. The 1023 document being demanded by Comer is among the products of that investigation.
While the 1023 form documents the claims from the informant, it doesn’t provide proof that they are true, people briefed on the matter said. The FBI and prosecutors who reviewed the information couldn’t corroborate the claims.
Brady didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Comer had subpoenaed the document and threatened Wray with contempt of Congress proceedings if Wray did not provide it. According to his statement, Comer told Wray during a telephone call Wednesday afternoon that the accommodation may not be sufficient to stop contempt proceedings.
“While Director Wray – after a month of refusing to even acknowledge that the form existed – has offered to allow us to see the documents in person at FBI headquarters, we have been clear that anything short of producing these documents to the House Oversight Committee is not in compliance with the subpoena,” Comer said.
“If the FBI fails to hand over the FD-1023 form as required by the subpoena, the House Oversight Committee will begin contempt of Congress proceedings,” he added.
The top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Jamie Raskin, secured a separate phone call with Wray, where he said he was offered the same accommodation. Raskin – who had been hoping to view the document with Comer at the same time – said he was given the impression that the document was short.
“I asked how long we would be there and it sounded like we would not be there for very long,” he said. “They said, you know, you could be out within a half an hour.”
FBI officials are expected to show the document to the lawmakers in the coming days, people briefed on the matter said.
The FBI, in a letter sent prior to Comer’s contempt threat, said it will make the information available to the oversight committee “in a format and setting that maintains confidentiality and protects important security interests and the integrity of FBI investigations.” The FBI also said there are limitations on its ability to share unsubstantiated raw intelligence outside the bureau.
A spokesperson for the FBI told CNN on Wednesday that “during today’s call, Director Wray offered to provide the Committee’s Chairman and Ranking Member an opportunity to review information responsive to the subpoena in a secure manner to accommodate the committee, while protecting the confidentiality and safety of sources and important investigative sensitivities.”
“The FBI has continually demonstrated its commitment to working with the Committee to accommodate its request, from scheduling briefings and calls to now allowing the Chair to review information in person. The FBI remains committed to cooperating with the Committee in good faith,” the spokesperson continued.
The FBI uses FD-1023 forms to memorialize information gathered from confidential sources. It typically includes allegations from a source that have not been verified by the FBI. According to Comer, the one in question, dated June 30, 2020, says the foreign national allegedly paid $5 million to receive a desired policy outcome, based on unclassified and legally protected whistleblower disclosures.
In a recent letter to Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland, Comer and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley wrote, “It has been alleged that the document includes a precise description of how the alleged criminal scheme was employed as well as its purpose.”
Ian Sams, White House spokesperson for oversight and investigations, dismissed Comer’s investigations, telling CNN in a statement that they are a “silly charade” and “political stunts” to “spread thin innuendo and falsehoods to attack the President.”
“He has already admitted this isn’t about uncovering facts but about trying to hurt the President’s poll numbers, so the only question left is how long he will waste time, energy, and taxpayer dollars to support a fact-free politically-motivated goose chase simply to get media attention and the Fox News spotlight,” Sams said.
Raskin also expressed concern over the idea of the FBI or other law enforcement entities being forced to turn over records or tips made by confidential informants.
“There will be no confidential informants, if any politician can just subpoena them and then open them up to the public,” he said.
Since taking control of the House earlier this year, Republicans have aggressively pursued Biden and his family, particularly his son Hunter Biden, over allegations that they improperly used the now-president’s political connections to enrich themselves.
Earlier this month, Comer alleged that the Biden family received millions of dollars in payments from foreign entities in China and Romania, including when Biden was vice president. The committee does not suggest any illegality about the payments from foreign sources and representatives for the White House and Hunter Biden have dismissed the allegations as politically motivated.
This story has been updated with additional developments.