FBI director faces lawmakers during House Judiciary Committee hearing

ByLuke Barr ABCNews logo
Wednesday, July 12, 2023
FBI director faces lawmakers during senate hearing
FBI Director Christopher Wray is facing a grilling from lawmakers before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

FBI Director Christopher Wray faced a grilling from lawmakers before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

The committee, chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has been critical of Wray and the Justice Department, accusing it of misuse of resources for political purposes.

Jordan's committee released a report on Tuesday about U.S. social media companies facilitating "censorship requests to American social media companies on behalf of a Ukrainian intelligence agency infiltrated by Russian-aligned actors."

The FBI director said the FBI arrested 20,000 violent criminals, removing an average of 60 criminals from the streets per day.

"The FBI's running well over 300 investigations targeting the leadership of those cartels, and working with our partners, we've already seized hundreds of kilograms of fentanyl this year alone, stopping deadly drugs from reaching their intended destinations in states all over the country and saving countless American lives," Wray said.

Jordan also has also accused the FBI of overreaching when executing the search of former President Donald Trump's home last August. In a letter to Wray's boss, Attorney General Merrick Garland, Jordan called the raid a "serious appearance of a double standard and a miscarriage of justice."

FBI Director Christopher Wray listens as Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary, speaks during an oversight hearing, July 12, 2023, on Capitol Hill.
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The director has defended the agency's actions in the face of some Republicans calling on Congress to reduce funding for the FBI. When asked whether a ballroom, a bathroom, and a bedroom are appropriate places to store confidential information -- an apparent reference to the place where classified documents were allegedly stored at Mar-A-Lago -- he declined to comment about the case, but he did say that the rooms described are not often sensitive compartmented information facilities (SCIFs), which the bureau defines as the proper facilities for housing classified documents.

"I don't want to be commenting on the pending case, but I will say that there are specific rules about where to store classified information and that those need to be stored in a SCIF ... and in my experience, ballrooms, bathrooms and bedrooms are not SCIFs," Wray said.

Wray is also facing questions on the investigation into Hunter Biden. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., read aloud a WhatsApp message in which Biden purportedly threatened a Chinese business associate by invoking his father's political connections.

"I will make certain that between the man sitting next to me and every person he knows and my ability to forever hold a grudge that you will regret not following my direction," Biden purportedly wrote in the message quoted by Gaetz at the hearing. "I am sitting here waiting for the call with my father."

"Are you protecting the Bidens?" Gaetz then asked Wray.

"Absolutely not," Wray answered.

FBI Director Christopher Wray attends a House Committee on the Judiciary oversight hearing, Wednesday, July 12, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Last month, Biden agreed to plead guilty to a pair of tax-related misdemeanors and enter into a pretrial diversion agreement that would enable him to avoid prosecution on one felony gun charge. Jordan, along with Oversight Chairman James Comer and Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith, has raised questions about the way the investigation was handled.

Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss has pushed back on allegations of political interference to benefit Biden, the son of President Joe Biden.

"To clarify an apparent misperception and to avoid future confusion, I wish to make one point clear: in this case, I have not requested Special Counsel designation," Weiss wrote in a letter to Sen. Lindsey Graham of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In earlier testimony to Congress, IRS whistleblower Gary Shapley claimed that Weiss was unsuccessful in persuading federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C., and California to bring charges against Biden, so Weiss then requested to become a special counsel, which -- according to Shapley -- was denied.

Wray also faced questions about Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a surveillance program set to expire at the end of this year. Rep. Ben Cline, R-Va., said Section 702 "looks like a framework that enables the FBI to spy on countless Americans."

"I can't speak to what it looks like to certain people. I can tell you that it is an authority focused on foreigners overseas in the context of national security investigations," Wray replied.

When Wray said that the FBI only accesses "about 3% of the entire 702 collection" and that "the FBI only accesses content in about 1.5% of that," Cline shot back, "Well, if you're conducting hundreds of thousands or even just hundreds of warrantless searches of Section 702 data for Americans' communications, it's clearly a domestic surveillance tool" and stated his belief that it "poses a real problem for the reauthorization of FISA authority for your organization."

While Jordan has argued against reauthorization for Section 702, citing cases when officials have been found to have misused the Section 702 program, Wray has argued the program is invaluable to law enforcement, noting its utility in nabbing terrorists and other foreign adversaries who have used email accounts serviced by U.S. companies.

Jordan plans to attach riders to appropriations bills which state the FBI is to move to Hunstville, Alabama, or get defunded, per a source briefed on the plan. The plan was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.