WASHINGTON — House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) has refused an offer from the FBI to view documents he’s requesting as part of an investigation into President Joe Biden.
On Wednesday, bureau Director Christopher Wray spoke by phone with Comer and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) about the paperwork — a form reflecting a tip to the FBI that allegedly implicates Biden in some kind of bribery scheme from his time as vice president. Afterward, Comer said in a statement that Wray “offered to allow us to see the documents in person at FBI headquarters,” but that seeing the material isn’t good enough — he wants to have the paperwork in his office.
According to the Oversight chair, a tipster told the FBI in June 2020 about a $5 million bribery scheme involving Biden and a foreign national whom Comer has not identified. Comer has described the unverified tip as key to his efforts to show that the Biden family is corrupt.
Comer asked for the tip form earlier this month with a congressional subpoena. The FBI refused to produce the documents, saying that doing so could endanger a human source and compromise current or future investigations — and that the tip is unverified.
“Recording the information does not validate the information, establish its credibility, or weigh it against other information known or developed by the FBI,” wrote Christopher Dunham, the FBI’s acting assistant director for congressional affairs, in a May 10 letter to Comer and Grassley.
In his new statement, Comer said that “anything short of producing these documents to the House Oversight Committee is not in compliance with the subpoena.”
If Republicans don’t receive the form, Comer said, they will move forward with a resolution to hold Wray in contempt of Congress. If approved by the House, the matter would then be referred to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution, though it’s unlikely that the DOJ would pursue charges against its own FBI director.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, was surprised when reporters told him Wednesday that Comer had refused the offer to view the material at FBI headquarters.
“He’s rejecting the offer to come and see it?” Raskin said, adding that he himself intended to go view the documents.
“Obviously, the purpose of requesting the subpoena is to try to get a contempt motion against the FBI director. There’s no other explanation for it.”
Raskin added that there’s nothing unusual about viewing documents in a secure location.
“There are lots of documents in the Jan. 6 committee investigation that we saw precisely on that basis,” he said, referring to the House’s probe into the 2021 Capitol riot.
Republicans could file a lawsuit asking a court to enforce the subpoena. Federal judges generally rule in favor of Congress when lawmakers demand information from the executive branch, though the fact that the FBI has already shown a willingness to provide access to the material would likely hurt Republicans’ case in such a suit.
“This silly charade by Chairman Comer is yet another reminder that his so-called ‘investigations’ are political stunts not meant to get information but to spread thin innuendo and falsehoods to attack the President,” White House spokesman Ian Sams said in an emailed statement.
“He has already admitted this isn’t about uncovering facts but about trying to hurt the President’s poll numbers, so the only question left is how long he will waste time, energy, and taxpayer dollars to support a fact-free politically-motivated goose chase simply to get media attention and the Fox News spotlight.”