House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) threatened Monday to hold FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress for what he claims is the agency’s “wholly inadequate” compliance with two subpoenas issued earlier this year.
“We write to notify you that if the FBI does not improve its compliance substantially, the Committee will take action — such as the initiation of content of Congress proceedings – to obtain compliance with these subpoenas,” Jordan wrote in a letter to Wray, giving the FBI a deadline of July 25 at 12 p.m. to hand over requested documents before the committee will “take action.”
The chairman claimed the letter was issued only after “several accommodations, months of persistent outreach by the Committee, and attempts to negotiate and work with the FBI in good faith.”
In February, Wray, along with Attorney General Merrick Garland and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, were issued subpoenas following a memo from Garland that noted a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.”
Jordan has previously claimed the memo raises concerns over First Amendment rights. In Monday’s letter, he described the committee’s subpoena as connected to “the FBI’s targeting of concerned parents who speak out at school board meetings.”
Jordan said the FBI failed to “sufficiently comply on a voluntary basis,” stating the FBI turned in only four redacted pages of school board-related documents by the March 1 deadline. The committee agreed to accept documents on a rolling basis as an accommodation to the FBI, according to Jordan.
Jordan said the committee later received only 10 more pages March 8 and accommodated the FBI’s request to view an additional 346 pages in private rather than turning them over publicly.
“The FBI’s productions to date have not included material the Committee knows is, or has reason to believe may be, in the FBI’s possession and that is responsive to the subpoena,” Jordan wrote, listing off types of documents the FBI “might possess.”
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Later in April, Jordan issued a second subpoena to Wray in connection with accusations that the FBI had developed an anti-Catholic bias after a now-withdrawn memo out of the Richmond, Va., field office described an increasing overlap in white nationalist groups and “Radical Traditionalist Catholics.”
In a statement to The Hill on Tuesday, an FBI spokesperson said the agency “recognizes the importance of congressional oversight and remains fully committed to cooperating with Congress’s oversight requests consistent with its constitutional and statutory responsibilities.”
Wray, a registered Republican and Trump appointee, has increasingly had to defend himself against GOP accusations of politicization at the bureau, including before Jordan’s committee last week.
“We opened 25 assessments into reports that were tagged, but none of those involved incidents at school board meetings and, to my knowledge, FBI has not opened investigations on any parent for exercising speech at school,” Wray said.
Of the Richmond Catholic memo, he added, “That product is not something that I will defend or excuse. It’s something that I thought was appalling and removed it.”
Jordan’s letter follows House Oversight Chairman Rep. James Comer’s (R-Ky.) recent efforts to bring contempt of Congress proceedings against Wray to force the agency to hand over a document that Comer claimed contained allegations then-Vice President Joe Biden accepted a bribe, which the White House has denied.
On the eve of the vote, the FBI agreed to grant committee members access, and Comer canceled the vote.
Updated Tuesday at 12:12 p.m. Olafimihan Oshin contributed.