WASHINGTON — The House Oversight and Accountability Committee plans to consider Thursday whether to hold the head of the FBI in contempt of Congress, in a dispute with the agency over an agency-generated record related to allegations against President Joe Biden.
A report released Wednesday states the resolution would recommend that the full House find FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress for not complying with a subpoena issued by committee Chairman James R. Comer in May.
And it would direct Speaker Kevin McCarthy to send that information to a federal prosecutor for a potential criminal charge, and to take “all appropriate action” to enforce the subpoena.
The move escalates the House Republican majority’s push to conduct aggressive oversight of what they argue is political bias in the decisions of federal law enforcement agencies including the FBI and Justice Department.
Conservative lawmakers expressed outrage after the FBI searched Donald Trump’s property in Florida last year. Since then, Republicans won control of the House and have been emboldened to poke and prod the agency even though Wray was appointed by Trump.
“Americans have lost trust in the FBI’s ability to enforce the law impartially and demand answers, transparency, and accountability,” Comer, R-Ky., said in a news release this week. “The Oversight Committee must follow the facts for the American people.”
But the subject of the subpoena at issue — a form Republicans say describes an alleged scheme involving “then-Vice President Biden and a foreign national relating to the exchange of money for policy decisions” — has brought criticism from Democrats that the contempt is more about scoring political points.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the Oversight panel, said Monday that the push to hold Wray in contempt of Congress provides “a huge distraction” as Trump awaits the results of the Justice Department special counsel probe.
“The idea of holding the FBI director in contempt because they want to be able to take this document, which could be a very dangerous thing to put out in the public and then use it for political purposes, just strikes me as wrong,” the Maryland Democrat said.
Raskin said it would be the first time in history the FBI director had been held in contempt of Congress.
The FBI has highlighted to lawmakers that the type of form at issue contains raw, unverified information from confidential human sources. Those records merely document what’s been told to the FBI and do not reflect the conclusion of investigators, the agency said.
Comer and Raskin received a briefing from the FBI earlier this week, and the agency has allowed them to review the record at issue.
But afterward, Comer reported that the FBI refused to hand over the unclassified form to the committee and said they would move forward with contempt of Congress proceedings.
Comer in a statement said the FBI confirmed that the record “has not been disproven” and the information is “being used in an ongoing investigation.”
Raskin in a statement said that the FBI answered questions from him and Comer for more than an hour. Raskin said the form records what a confidential source told the FBI “about conversations he had with individuals in Ukraine.”
The Justice Department under former Attorney General William Barr interviewed the source as part of an assessment into “allegations by Rudy Giuliani that President Biden and Hunter Biden were involved in a Ukrainian corruption scheme,” Raskin said in the statement, and an interview with the source was recorded in the subpoenaed form.
“In August 2020, Attorney General Barr and his hand-picked U.S. Attorney signed off on closing the assessment, having found no evidence to corroborate Mr. Giuliani’s allegations,” Raskin said in a statement earlier this week.
Raskin added that the source informed the FBI he “could not provide any opinion on the underlying veracity of the information provided by these Ukrainian individuals.”
Comer meanwhile described the informant as “highly credible” and said in a statement that the person has worked with the FBI for more than a decade.
The White House has said congressional Republicans have been making unproven political attacks against Biden for years.
Ian Sams, White House spokesman for oversight and investigations, said in a statement that congressional Republicans “are simply staging sad political stunts to push thin innuendo and spread insinuations to attack the President and get themselves booked on Fox News.”
The push to hold Wray in contempt of Congress appears to have the backing of McCarthy as well.
“We oversee the FBI. And if he thinks differently, he will soon see a contempt charge in Congress against the director,” McCarthy said during a Fox News appearance last week.