Republicans Prepare Contempt Charge Against FBI Director

Republicans Prepare Contempt Charge Against FBI Director

( – There’s a long-standing history of saber-rattling between Republican House Oversight Committee heads and executive branch officials. That scenario played out in late June 2012 when Eric Holder became the first attorney general to be held in both civil and criminal contempt of Congress after he refused to turn over documents subpoenaed by the committee. His boss, former President Barack Obama, eventually stepped in and saved the day, but the fallout and reputational damage to Holder arguably remains.

Most recently, Oversight Committee Republicans are battling it out with the current FBI director over a documents request. Recent reports indicated they are preparing to bring a contempt charge against him.

House Oversight Committee Republicans Subpoena’s Documents From FBI Director

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) and ranking Senate Budget Committee member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) have been attempting to obtain a copy of an FD-1023 form from the FBI detailing whistleblower allegations surrounding a criminal bribery scheme involving then-Vice President Joe Biden and an unnamed foreign national.

On May 3, Comer and Grassley sent a letter and accompanying subpoena to Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland directing the FBI to turn over any FD-1023 forms they have containing the word “Biden.” They gave the bureau until May 10 to comply with the directive.

However, on May 10, Acting Assistant FBI Director Chris Dunham sent a letter back to the Republican lawmakers, basically telling them to “take a hike.” He cited the bureau’s long-standing policy of protecting the confidentiality of informants and other sources during active investigations.

Then, on May 24, Comer sent a follow-up letter to Wray explaining that the Oversight Committee had no interest in obtaining any information regarding the identity of the FBI’s informant. He also threatened to initiate proceedings to hold the FBI director in contempt of Congress unless he turned over the subpoenaed document by May 30.

On May 30, Wray sent a letter to Comer offering to discuss ways the FBI can allow committee members to view the requested document in a “format and setting” that would maintain the informant’s identity and protect “important sensitivities” surrounding the bureau’s ongoing investigative efforts.

House Oversight Committee To Initiate Contempt Proceedings

Later that day, Comer issued a statement calling Wray’s decision to “stiff-arm” Congress “obstructionist and unacceptable.” He also advised that the Congressional oversight authorities would take the appropriate steps to hold the FBI director in contempt of Congress for his refusal to comply with a lawful Congressional subpoena.

The matter will then transfer to the Justice Department for further review. The DOJ declined to prosecute Holder in 2012 since Obama stepped in and asserted executive privilege over the documents subpoenaed by Congress. However, it’s too late for him to save the day for his former VP, and most legal experts agree that privilege cannot be used to conceal alleged illegal conduct.

On Friday, June 1, Fox News reported that Wray plans on providing an opportunity for Comer to review the form in a SCIF (a secure room) in the Capitol Building on Monday. However, Comer has consistently stated that nothing less than having a copy of the document will fulfill the terms of the subpoena.

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