House Oversight and Accountability Committee leaders briefed by the FBI on the details of a tip into potential wrongdoing by President Biden disagreed on basic conclusions, including whether it’s part of an ongoing probe.
Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) vowed to continue with his plans to hold FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt for failing to physically turn over the document lawmakers reviewed alongside agents during an hour and a half long briefing. The FBI called the move an unwarranted escalation.
Comer said the tip, memorialized in a document he subpoenaed from the FBI, is part of an ongoing investigation and alleges Biden may have accepted a bribe during his tenure as vice president.
“Given the severity and complexity of the allegations contained within this record, Congress must investigate further,” he said after the Monday briefing.
“This is only the beginning. It appears this investigation is part of an ongoing investigation, which I assume is in Delaware.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.) the top Democrat on the panel, on the other hand, said the FBI decided not to advance its initial investigation into the matter, determining the secondhand information did not warrant followup by the group then-Attorney General BIll Barr tasked with assessing it.
“What we’re talking about here is a confidential human source reporting a conversation with someone else. So we’re talking about is secondhand hearsay,” Raskin said, adding that the source “had no way of knowing about the underlying veracity of the things that he was being told.”
“And they did whatever investigative due diligence was called for in that assessment period, and they found no reason to escalate it from an assessment to a so-called preliminary investigation,” he added.
“FBI prosecutorial protocol is whether there are articulable facts giving rise to suspicion of criminal activity. So they apparently decided there was not, and they called an end to the investigation.”
Both CNN and NBC have reported that a team led by then-U.S. Attorney Scott Brady was unable to corroborate the 2020 allegation.
Comer said the panel will meet Thursday to vote on whether to hold Wray in contempt of Congress because “the FBI again refused to hand over the unclassified record to the custody of the House Oversight Committee.”
In a statement Monday the FBI stressed the accommodations given to the panel.
“The FBI has continually demonstrated its commitment to accommodate the committee’s request, including by producing the document in a reading room at the U.S. Capitol. This commonsense safeguard is often employed in response to congressional requests and in court proceedings to protect important concerns, such as the physical safety of sources and the integrity of investigations,” the agency said in a statement.
“The escalation to a contempt vote under these circumstances is unwarranted.”
Comer issued a subpoena last month compelling Wray to produce any FD-1023 forms — records of interactions with confidential sources — from June 2020 that contain the word “Biden.”
He has claimed the form contains information related to “an alleged criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Biden and a foreign national relating to the exchange of money for policy decisions.”
Both Comer and Raskin agreed that the information came from a highly credible paid source the FBI has relied on for years.
But the two men otherwise left with remarkably different impressions of the briefing.
“All I know is there’s an ongoing investigation. They confirm there’s an ongoing investigation using this information. I assume that ongoing investigation is in Delaware. I don’t know that, but I assume that,” Comer said.
When asked by The Hill whether he had information to support that claim, Comer responded, “I assume it’s Delaware. I’ll put it like that.”
Raskin seemed surprised by Comer’s claim the investigation is ongoing.
“Not only were there no criminal charges, there was no escalation of the FBI investigation,” Raskin said.
“All I will tell you is that there was a complete Department of Justice, U.S. attorney and FBI team that was set up to investigate the allegations that surfaced after Rudy Giuliani was making particular allegations.”
Raskin later clarified in a statement that, “much of the information provided by the source was information Mr. Giuliani had already provided the FBI.”
The probe into the vague allegation against Biden appears to be intertwined with Comer’s probe into overseas business dealings by the president’s family members, including his son Hunter Biden and brother James Biden, as well as their associates.
“The claims made in the document are consistent with what we found and disclosed to you all in Romania,” Comer said, referring to financial records that the committee’s Republicans reported in an interim memo on the Biden family business dealings last month. “It suggests a pattern of bribery where payments would be made through shell accounts and multiple banks. There’s a term for that, it’s called money laundering.”
Republicans on the committee have gained access to suspicious activity reports generated by banks that they say show more than $10 million that flowed from foreign entities to companies associated with the Biden family and its associates. Those suspicious activity reports do not necessarily mean any illegal transactions occurred.
Raskin on Monday also pushed back against Comer’s plans to hold Wray in contempt, something he said would mark the first time in history such a motion has been brought against an FBI director.
“The document, like all documents relating to all confidential human sources, is one that should not be released publicly because it could endanger the confidential human source and then undermine our whole law enforcement system that the FBI has put into place,” he said.
Raskin called releasing the document — something Comer has said he is considering — “totally out of bounds.”
“We have the FBI, which came over to us, brought the very document we’re looking for, and gave even the majority — I think, 90 or 95 percent — of what was being asked for, which was the document and all kinds of surrounding answers to questions about the document. Now, it seems like the goalpost has shifted a little bit.”
Updated at 5:56 p.m.