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On Tuesday, Chair of the House Oversight Committee James Comer (R) issued a press release threatening to hold FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress after being informed that the agency would not comply with a lawful subpoena. Comer wrote:
Today, the FBI informed the Committee that it will not provide the unclassified documents subpoenaed by the Committee. The FBI’s decision to stiff-arm Congress and hide this information from the American people is obstructionist and unacceptable. While I have a call scheduled with FBI Director Wray tomorrow to discuss his response further, the Committee has been clear in its intent to protect Congressional oversight authorities and will now be taking steps to hold the FBI Director in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a lawful subpoena. Americans deserve the truth, and the Oversight Committee will continue to demand transparency from this nation’s chief law enforcement agency.
The scandal involves a form known as FD-1023, containing allegations that a foreign national exchanged $5 million in order to get policy decisions from then-Vice President Joe Biden. A whistleblower came forward with the bribery allegations, revealing the existence of the form, to Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office which prompted the Congressional inquiry and a request to the DOJ for investigation.
Today, the FBI informed @GOPoversight that it will not provide the unclassified documents subpoenaed by the Committee.
The Committee will now be taking steps to hold FBI Director Wray in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a lawful subpoena.
— Rep. James Comer (@RepJamesComer) May 30, 2023
While details of the subject matter are sparse, the inquiry is speculated to involve the Ukrainian gas company Burisma. In June 2020, Ukrainian officials organized a press conference where they presented $5 million in cash that was allegedly offered as a bribe to halt an investigation into Mykola Zlochevsky, the founder of the natural gas company Burisma. The disgraced son of the then-VP, Hunter Biden, had served on Burisma’s board from 2014 to 2019 and received a salary of up to $1 million per year. Delaware US Attorney David Weiss is currently conducting a criminal investigation into Hunter Biden regarding allegations of tax fraud, money laundering, illegal foreign lobbying, and providing false information about his drug use on a gun purchase form.
Comer’s committee issued the subpoena on May 3, giving a May 10 deadline to turn over documents, and on May 24 he initially threatened contempt charges for noncompliance, extending the deadline until May 30.
The FBI refused to provide the document on May 10, claiming that the whistleblower’s tips are unverified (whose job is that, FBI?) and saying it had concerns about informant confidentiality. The FBI said to the media:
Releasing confidential source information could potentially jeopardize investigations and put lives at risk. The FBI remains committed to cooperating with Congress’s oversight requests on this matter and others as we always have.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) also engaged FBI Director Wray in a call on May 19, confident at the time that he could procure the documents, but no dice. On Tuesday, McCarthy relayed that he previously told Wray that the FBI could redact certain parts of the document. Now, McCarthy has declared that he will hold Wray to the contempt charges in Congress:
But we have a right to see it. He does not have the right to choose what he can and cannot show us. We oversee the FBI and if he thinks differently, he will soon see a contempt charge in Congress against the director.
McCarthy vowed that Congress would inevitably obtain the document, adding:
There’s enough problems in the FBI and I will not sit back and allow him to ignore this. We will get this document. … He knows that there’s a document and we have a responsibility to see it.
As noted in his statement, Rep. Comer is scheduled to speak with FBI Director Wray in a call on Wednesday.