House Republicans are escalating their standoff with the FBI over an unreleased document that they say ties then-Vice President Joe Biden to a “bribery scheme” — without sharing key details about the explosive allegation behind it.
The Oversight Committee will vote Thursday on holding FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress over the bureau’s decision not to give lawmakers a copy of the document, Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) said Monday after a closed-door meeting with FBI officials.
“At the briefing, the FBI again refused to hand over the unclassified record to the custody of the House Oversight Committee,” Comer said. “Given the severity and the complexity of the allegations contained within this record, Congress must investigate further.”
A committee contempt vote would significantly ramp up House Republicans’ conflict with the FBI, which has faced major flak since the GOP took the majority, given the yearslong conflict between the two entities. In addition, such a move would signal a new phase of Comer’s investigation into Biden’s affairs, where Republicans hope to find an elusive direct link between the president’s decision-making and payments his family members received.
Republicans control the oversight panel, meaning they can advance the contempt resolution as long as most of their members stay united. Speaker Kevin McCarthy has vowed to bring it up on the floor. But even if the entire House GOP finds Wray in contempt, it’s highly unlikely that Biden’s Justice Department would exercise its power to bring any criminal charges.
Even as Republicans move forward with a historic contempt vote — no FBI director has faced one in at least four decades — they are offering few specifics on the details of the allegation contained in the Biden document.
Comer said Monday that the document “has not been disproven” and that it fits within the frame of his larger probe, which has focused on payments Biden family members received from a network of companies and foreign governments.
But Comer did not respond to questions about what country is involved in the document’s charge or if it relates to Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company where First Son Hunter Biden served on the board. That company has been at the center of the GOP’s years-long broader Biden family focus.
“We feel that this accusation is consistent with a pattern that we’re seeing, frankly, in other countries,” Comer said.
But Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, the panel’s top Democrat who attended the briefing with Comer, said FBI officials told both of them that the document was vetted by the Trump-era DOJ by then-U.S. attorney Scott Brady. At the time, Brady was tasked with vetting information from then-President Donald Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
Trump’s DOJ “determined that there was no grounds to escalate from initial assessment to a preliminary investigation,” Raskin said.
“If there is a complaint, the complaint is with Attorney General William Barr, the Trump Justice Department and the team that the Trump administration appointed to look into it,” he added. “I’m surprised that my colleagues want to try to litigate this in public.”
Asked if FBI officials confirmed to him and Comer that the document is related to Ukraine, Raskin declined to comment. But the Democrat added that the document was given to Brady because it is similar to Giuliani-pushed allegations against Biden that the U.S. attorney was tasked with vetting and investigating.
Spokespeople for Comer didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about Raskin’s remarks.
The seeds of the Wray contempt fight were planted in early May when Comer and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said that the FBI had material outlining “an alleged criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Biden and a foreign national relating to the exchange of money for policy decisions.”
Comer simultaneously subpoenaed the FBI to compel the bureau to hand over any so-called FD-1023 forms — the formal term for records that describe conversations with a confidential human source — from June 2020 that contain the word “Biden.”
The forms themselves, regardless of their content, do not independently amount to evidence of wrongdoing. Comer has seen the document at issue but does not have it in his possession.
Comer also told the bureau late last month that it could narrow the search date to June 30, 2020, and add the search term “five million.” That number, the Republican said, was a “reference to the amount of money the foreign national allegedly paid to receive the desired policy outcome.”
Comer and Grassley initially offered scant details about the identity of the “highly credible” whistleblower who made them aware of the document, or how that person would have knowledge of the FBI document detailing a conversation with a confidential source.
But Comer colored in a few details after Monday’s briefing, saying that the FBI called the informant behind the document “trusted and highly credible,” adding that the person was paid six figures by the bureau. Comer said that it appears the document is currently being used in an “ongoing investigation,” one that he assumed was the yearslong federal probe involving Hunter Biden.
Republicans have said they want to publicly release the document if the FBI gives it to the committee. The bureau has countered that revealing unverified information could have a potential range of negative consequences — including harming active investigations or informants, as well as affecting prosecutions or court cases.
And the FBI has warned that the forms are used to “record unverified reporting by a confidential human source” and that “documenting the information does not validate it, establish its credibility, or weigh it against other information verified by the FBI.”
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