The House of Representatives is on the verge of taking a historic step: holding FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress.
Adding to the tension, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R–CA) reacted angrily toward Wray Tuesday morning, suggesting criminal proceedings against the bureau chief if he continues to resist turning over documents subpoenaed by House Oversight Chair James Comer (R–KY).
At issue is a document believed to contain allegations of a criminal “bribery” scheme involving President Joe Biden, which Comer has been seeking since late April. To compel the FBI to provide the affidavit, Comer issued a subpoena with a final deadline set for May 30.
Speaking on Fox News Tuesday morning, McCarthy warned that time was running out. “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,” McCarthy said. “We have the 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 Wray and the FBI. They are not above the law.”
I have a message for FBI Director Christopher Wray: If he misses today's deadline to turn over subpoenaed documents to Congress, I am prepared to move contempt charges against him. pic.twitter.com/D3hyW3VIpX
— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) May 30, 2023
The FBI has reportedly resisted acknowledging the particular file exists or providing it, citing concerns over the breach of confidentiality with informant sources. But that does not appear to have moved McCarthy, who told radio host Hugh Hewitt later Tuesday that the House was willing to take measures to protect confidentiality. “If there’s a concern about methods or areas of how we get it, redact names so we don’t see that. But you’ve got to show the document,” he said.
Should the House formally pass a motion of criminal contempt, Wray would be subject to a fine and potentially a year’s imprisonment if federal prosecutors take up the case. It is unknown at this time what other forms of recourse could be pursued should the House decline to use the criminal channel.
The arrival of this latest battle in the ongoing feud between the Republican–led House and the newly–inaugurated Democratic administration is certain to draw plenty of media attention in the days ahead. With the possibility of the first contempt prosecution of an FBI director in recent memory, it is sure to be an historic moment for the House and for the bureau.