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Contempt charges could be coming soon over Biden document

By Sarah May
|
May 30, 2023

Pressure is mounting on FBI Director Christopher Wray to hand over a document Republican lawmakers allege contains evidence of President Joe Biden's involvement in a “criminal” scheme in which money was exchanged for favorable policy decisions, or else face possible contempt charges, as the Daily Mail reports.

At issue is an unclassified internal FD-1023 form, the existence of which was recently revealed by a whistleblower, and the document is said to detail an “arrangement” between then-Vice President Biden and an unnamed foreign national.

Subpoena Ignored

It was back on May 3 that Republican House Oversight and Accountability chair James Comer (KY-01) issued a subpoena for the documents said to implicate Biden in unlawful conduct.

Though a return date of May 10 was specified at that time, the FBI failed to comply by the stated deadline.

Oversight committee counsel then participated in two meetings with FBI officials, though neither resulted in the agency's cooperation with the document demand, as a press release from the panel indicated.

Writing to Wray once more, Comer declared the FBI's refusal to comply to be “obstructionist,” as the New York Post notes, and gave the agency director a hard deadline of Tuesday, May 30 by which to deliver the documents in question or else face the possibility of contempt charges.

GOP Lawmakers Slam Stonewalling

Comer, together with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) – who has long been involved in probing potential Biden family corruption – slammed Wray last week for his continued defiance in the face of congressional document demands in a press release issued by the Oversight panel.

The congressman from Kentucky stated, “The FBI's refusal to provide this single document is obstructionist. Whistleblower disclosures that Joe Biden may have been involved in a criminal bribery scheme as vice president track closely with what we are seeing in our investigation into the Biden family's influence peddling schemes.”

Grassley added, “The FBI has continued to tie itself in knots to ignore a legitimate subpoena from Congress, which has a constitutional duty of oversight. The Bureau's developed a serious reputation problem through its spate of failures and overreach, and leadership is doing it no favors by attempting to stiff-arm Congress.”

The senator also warned that despite the agency's attempts to claim that the subpoena's language was too broad for them to provide responsive materials, “The FBI knows exactly what document Chairman Comer and I are seeking, and if they know us at all, they know we will get it, one way or another.”

Phone Call Planned

As the Post reports separately, Wray is set to participate in a phone call with Comer on Wednesday to discuss the ongoing document dispute.

The outlet suggests that the timing of the scheduled call – one day after the stated deadline for the materials to be turned over – leaves open questions about whether Wray intends to comply.

With the FBI contending last week that “[r]eleasing confidential source information could potentially jeopardize investigations and put lives at risk,” it is far from clear that agency leadership has come around to the notion that cooperation with the subpoena is required.

As the Daily Caller indicates, however, those who refuse “to give testimony or produce papers” when summoned to do so by either chamber of the legislature can be found to have committed contempt of Congress and are subject to penalties that could include up to a $100,000 fine and 12 months in prison. Given that prosecution of such charges would fall to the Department of Justice or the U.S Attorney in Washington, D.C., however, Wray would almost certainly remain unscathed, and charges would be purely symbolic in nature.

McCarthy Weighs in

Though the purpose of the Wednesday call between Comer and Wray remains unclear, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (CA-20) took a strong stance on the document battle on Tuesday during an appearance on Fox News, as the Daily Caller notes.

“Let me tell Director Christopher Wray, right here, right now, if he misses the deadline today, I am prepared to move contempt charges in Congress against him. We have jurisdiction over this,” McCarthy cautioned.

The speaker went on, “He can send us the document, we have a right to look at that, Republicans and Democrats alike in that committee, and if he does not follow through with the law, we will move contempt charges against Christopher Wray and the FBI. They are not above the law.”

Whether Wray ultimately sees his way clear to provide the information demanded by Comer, Grassley, and McCarthy is something that remains to be seen, and whether their pledge to – at least symbolically – hold him accountable if he does not, only time will tell.