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FBI Director Wray grilled as House GOP members allege 'politicization' of the agency

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before a House Committee on the Judiciary oversight hearing on Wednesday.
Patrick Semansky
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AP
FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before a House Committee on the Judiciary oversight hearing on Wednesday.

FBI Director Christopher Wray was in the hot seat Wednesday as he fielded questions — and accusations — from members of the House Judiciary Committee.

The interactions between lawmakers (particularly Republicans) and Wray were, at times, tense as the director addressed questions, most framed as accusations that the FBI pursues a political agenda. Committee members questioned Wray over the agency's response to Jan. 6, investigations into former President Donald Trump, President Biden and the wider Biden family, and the agency's use of the federal program known as FISA — the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — which conducts surveillance of foreign entities for national security reasons.

Republican lawmakers in charge of the committee, including Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio, called the hearing to focus on their concern that the agency has grown increasingly politicized under Wray's leadership.

At the start of the hearing, Jordan alleged that the FBI has illegally scrutinized conservatives and Catholics and engaged in the "weaponization of the government against the American people."

Jordan has loudly criticized the FBI outside of the hearing and made it clear he plans try to block money for some FBI programs, including a planned new agency headquarters.

Democrats see the hearing and other attacks on the FBI as a way to settle scores related to the two impeachments of then-President Trump and other disputes. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., called the GOP-led committee "MAGA Republicans" and the "legislative arm of the Trump reelection campaign" during the hearing.

As Wray tackled the questions, the White House issued a statement criticizing Republicans for holding the hearing.

"Extreme House Republicans have decided that the only law enforcement they like is law enforcement that suits their own partisan political agenda. Instead of backing the blue, they're attacking the blue – going after the FBI, federal prosecutors, and other law enforcement professionals with political stunts to try to get themselves attention on the far right," Ian Sams, the White House spokesperson for oversight and investigations, said in a statement.

For his part, Wray defended the work of the FBI's 38,000 personnel in his opening statement to the committee.

"Those men and women, who choose to dedicate their careers—their lives, really—to this kind of work and to fulfilling the FBI mission, are inspiring," Wray said in his statement to the committee.

Rep. Jim Jordan chairs a House Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the FBI.
Drew Angerer / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Rep. Jim Jordan chairs a House Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the FBI.

He went on to say, "Today's FBI leaders reflect the best of this organization."

Republican lawmakers' attitudestoward the bureau have changed in recent years with Wray and his agency under attack since he took over the position. Wray became the eighth head of the FBI on Aug. 2, 2017.

House Judiciary Committee Republicans have kept their promise made last year that the FBI and Department of Justice would be under their microscope once they took over the House.

Wray's appearance Wednesday comes after a threat from House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., to start contempt proceedings against Wray last month. Republicans alleged Wray and other FBI officials have withheld information tied to an investigation into President Biden and his family.

The FBI has said those contempt proceedings, which didn't move forward, are "unwarranted."

The criticism toward the FBI under Wray's leadership, as well as the DOJ, continued after Hunter Biden pleaded guilty to federal income tax charges and a felony firearm offense.

Republicans have alleged that Biden engaged in a bribery schemewith a foreign national during his time as vice president. The White House, and others, have denied these claims.

These topics were brought up by Republican members within the first 30 minutes of the hearing.

Democrats criticize FBI's timidity in investigating Trump

Wray arrives to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.
Saul Loeb / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Wray arrives to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.

Wray did not escape some criticism by Democratic lawmakers, Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Adam Schiff.

Lofgren questioned Wray on reports that FBI investigators slow-walked inquiries into Trump's role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

She asked Wray if he knew whether investigators looked into Trump's role in the insurrection in the early days after the attack at the Capitol. She suggested there was an "unprecedented delay" in investigating Trump and that Republican lawmakers were wrong about the former president being unfairly targeted.

Schiff similarly called the perceived delay as "inexplicable." He also questioned the FBI's slow response to dig into Trump's refusal to hand over classified documents that he kept at his resort in Florida.

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