Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray told the House Judiciary Committee on July 12 that his agency is “absolutely not” defending President Joe Biden’s family.
Wray’s comments come on the tail of a roughly month-long standoff between the embattled FBI chief and House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) over a document claiming that Joe Biden, while still vice president, took a multimillion-dollar bribe from a foreign national.
Ultimately, Mr. Wray relented, allowing Republicans on the Oversight panel to view a substantially redacted version of the document in a secured location away from the main House of Representatives complex.
Still, the standoff soured a party that had already grown impatient with Mr. Wray over a series of alleged abuses by the agency, leading to allegations that the FBI director was protecting Mr. Biden and his family.
Mr. Wray told the panel this was “absolutely not” the case while being grilled by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a prominent critic of Mr. Wray’s agency.
The comments came during an exchange regarding a message that Hunter Biden allegedly sent to Chinese businessman Henry Zhao, apparently demanding payment and threatening to use Joe Biden’s influence if the payment was not received.
“I am sitting here with my father, and we would like to understand why the commitment made has not been fulfilled,” the younger Biden wrote, according to the testimony of an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) whistleblower.
“Now means tonight,” Hunter Biden said, warning that if anyone other than Zhao, “Zhang, or the chairman” tried to reach out about the matter, “I will make certain that between the man sitting next to me and every person he knows and my ability to forever hold a grudge that you will regret not following my direction.
“I am sitting here waiting for the call with my father.”
During his questioning of Mr. Wray, Mr. Gaetz recited portions of this exchange, which suggests that the president may have been more involved with his son’s business dealings than he has previously let on.
“Sounds like a shakedown, doesn’t it, Director?” Mr. Gaetz asked.
“I’m not gonna get into commenting on that,” Mr. Wray replied.
Mr. Gaetz said that Mr. Wray’s answer suggested he was “deeply uncurious … almost suspiciously uncurious.”
“Are you protecting the Bidens?” Mr. Gaetz asked.
“Absolutely not; the FBI has no interest in protecting anyone politically,” Mr. Wray responded over Mr. Gaetz’s repeated call for the FBI chief to answer whether the text message seemed to be a “shakedown.”
“Everybody knows why you won’t answer it—because to the millions of people who will see this, they know it is, and your inability to acknowledge that is deeply revealing,” Mr. Gaetz said.
Charges of FBI Politicization
Mr. Wray’s conduct has increasingly come under the Republican microscope amid ongoing probes into the alleged weaponization of the federal government.
Republicans say Mr. Wray has assisted a multi-branch effort within Mr. Biden’s government to target and silence conservatives.
The director vehemently pushed back on allegations that the agency is targeting conservatives.
“Well, first off, I would disagree with your characterization of the FBI and certainly your description of my own approach,” Mr. Wray said in response to an assertion by Rep. Harriet Hagemam (R-Wyo.) that the FBI has been “weaponized” against conservatives.
“The idea that I’m biased against conservatives seems somewhat insane to me, given my own personal background,” said Mr. Wray, a registered Republican.
The first family has faced substantial Republican scrutiny since before the 2020 presidential election because of foreign business dealings by Hunter Biden.
That scrutiny intensified when, in a May 3 letter, Mr. Comer and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) revealed they received “highly credible unclassified whistleblower disclosures” that the FBI possessed an unclassified record that “describes an alleged criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Joe Biden and a foreign national relating to the exchange of money for policy decisions.”
According to Mr. Grassley, FBI investigators were present during a briefing with Assistant U.S. Attorney Lesley Wolf on the record ahead of the 2020 election. However, the charges in this record were allegedly not acted upon, and Mr. Wray was accused of stonewalling Republicans’ probe into the document after they became aware of it.
Mr. Wray was also taken to task for not doing enough to reveal the authenticity of Hunter Biden’s laptop, which revealed allegations of many crimes involving then-candidate Biden. According to IRS whistleblowers, the FBI was able to verify the laptop as belonging to Hunter Biden prior to the election.
Charges of politicization grew louder after the FBI carried out a raid on the home of former President Donald Trump in Palm Beach, Florida.
When challenged on this decision during the hearing, Mr. Wray defended the move as “the lawful execution of a search warrant.”
Wray Defends FBI
In his opening remarks, Mr. Wray defended the FBI’s conduct to the panel.
“In the time that I have before we get to your questions, I want to talk about the sheer breadth and impact of the work the FBI’s 38,000 employees are doing each and every day,” Mr. Wray said. “Because the work the men and women of the FBI do to protect the American people—it goes way beyond the one or two investigations that seem to capture all the headlines.”
He noted that last year the agency had made 20,000 arrests of violent criminals and child predators.
Mr. Wray also emphasized the agency’s work to intercept and arrest fentanyl traffickers amid an intensifying epidemic of the highly lethal opioid, as well as mounting more than 300 investigations into the Central American drug cartels currently exploiting insecurities along the southern border.
“We’ve already seized hundreds of kilograms of fentanyl this year alone, stopping deadly drugs from reaching their intended destinations in states all over the country and saving countless American lives,” the director said.
Additionally, he noted the agency’s work to counter “the Chinese government’s efforts to steal our most precious secrets, rob our businesses of their ideas and innovation, and repress freedom of speech right here in the United States.”
Mr. Wray painted an image that these types of activities formed the core identity and work of the FBI.
Still, many Republicans and Democrats alike have concerns about the agency, particularly regarding its alleged mishandling of surveillance tools like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
In addition, most of the front runners for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, including Mr. Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, and former U.N. Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, have said they would remove the embattled FBI director almost immediately upon taking office.