House Republicans are scrapping a high-profile vote to hold FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt, ending a weeks-long standoff with the bureau.
The Oversight Committee had been scheduled to meet Thursday on a resolution holding Wray in contempt of Congress as it ramped up a GOP investigation into President Joe Biden. But Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) announced Wednesday night that he was calling off the vote after the FBI offered to let all committee members review a 2020 document at the center of the standoff.
In addition to letting the full panel review the document, known as an FD-1023, describing an interview the FBI had with a confidential informant, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the panel, and Comer will also be able to review two additional documents.
“Allowing all Oversight Committee members to review this record is an important step toward conducting oversight of the FBI and holding it accountable to the American people,” Comer said in a statement announcing his decision.
Comer quickly characterized the deal as a win, saying that the FBI had “caved.” But the Kentucky Republican had previously pledged to hold the contempt vote in his committee unless the FBI physically turned a copy of the document over to the panel. He had announced the Thursday vote on Monday after he and Raskin were able to see the document and got a briefing, but were not given the document.
But people familiar with the offer told POLITICO earlier Wednesday that the FBI was now offering to let the full committee review the document in an apparent bid to find an off-ramp to prevent the committee vote. Comer, in a joint Fox News interview with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) just hours before the agreement was announced, confirmed the bureau had put new potential deals on the table and was actively negotiating.
The deal is in line with a bar set by Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who said repeatedly that if Wray let the whole panel see the document, there would not be a need to hold a vote on holding the FBI director in contempt. Speaking with reporters earlier Wednesday, McCarthy pointed to Comer as deserving the credit for any agreement.
“If [Wray] changes his position and provides it for everybody, I want to thank Chairman Comer for being strong,” he said.
Some conservatives had voiced confidence that they would have the support among Republicans on the House floor to hold Wray in contempt. But it would also be a historic vote and with only a five-seat majority, it would likely put some of their more pragmatic members in a tough spot.
At the center of the standoff is a document that Republicans allege ties then-Vice President Joe Biden to a “bribery scheme.” The forms themselves, regardless of their content, do not independently amount to evidence of wrongdoing and the FBI has warned that they contain unverified information.
The document has ties to a Trump-era inquiry led by then-U.S. Attorney Scott Brady, who was tasked with investigating claims made by Rudy Giuliani, who was at the time Trump’s personal attorney. Though Democrats and Republicans have spent the days since Monday’s briefing sparring over what was said behind closed doors, they are in agreement that the document was created when the bureau, searching for information that could be related to the Brady inquiry, re-interviewed an informant in June 2020.
The informant, Comer noted, was viewed by the FBI as credible, and had been paid six figures by the bureau dating back to the Obama years.
The broader Brady inquiry, the FBI told Raskin and Comer this week, was closed in August 2020. But Republicans have highlighted that the document was reportedly handed over to DOJ prosecutors in Delaware, who have been conducting a years-long investigation into Hunter Biden, the president’s son.
Both Comer and Raskin have confirmed that the allegation is related to Ukraine — as were many of the claims Trump’s then-lawyer was circulating during the 2020 election. GOP Oversight aides have stressed that there is nothing in the 2020 document that shows a direct link to Giuliani, and that his name is not mentioned, but Democrats have characterized the allegation as similar to those he had previously passed along to the Trump-era Justice Department.
Raskin, in a statement after Comer’s decision, praised the FBI for operating “in a spirit of good faith” and accused Republicans on the panel of trying to “ignore the facts that undermine their false narratives.”
“Holding someone in contempt of Congress is among the most serious actions our Committee can take and it should not be weaponized to undermine the FBI,” Raskin said. “As Republicans’ investigation into President Biden has uncovered no evidence of wrongdoing, they continue to attempt to discredit and dismantle the FBI to help prop up Donald Trump’s poll numbers.”
Rep. James Comer said the FBI offered to let his committee review a 2020 document at the center of the standoff.