As Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee try to paint the FBI as politically biased, FBI Director Christopher Wray was asked to defend the agency’s impartiality.
Democrat attempts to defend the FBI’s conduct under Wray, a Trump appointment, by pointing up malfeasance by Trump or his allies was occasionally successful. While some Democrats have criticized the FBI for handling the Trump investigation and its use of surveillance capabilities, FBI Director Christopher Wray has received a rare thank you from a Republican for his leadership.
Republicans have mainly stuck to their argument that the agency unjustly targets the right based on a series of temporary memoranda or prosecutions of conservatives. It was clear from Wray’s comments that the mild-mannered director’s simmering feud with the GOP was about to explode when the Republicans took control of Congress.
A report by an FBI agent in the Richmond, Virginia field office showing the rising convergence between white nationalist groups and “Radical-Traditional Catholics” has been widely condemned, including by FBI Director Robert Wray. Wray withdrew the letter and said it was against policy to investigate someone based on their religion.
Some Republicans have called for the agency’s funding to be cut, which would devastate the lives of 38,000 dedicated law enforcement professionals and American citizens, neighborhoods, and communities.
A court ruling restricting the Biden administration’s connection with social media firms over free speech concerns and FBI spy capabilities significantly focused Republican and Democratic attention on civil rights issues. A federal court has decided that the FBI and other government agencies cannot contact social media firms to request that they delete or otherwise alter posts that contain constitutionally protected free speech.
Wray insisted that the CIA does not demand social media remove anything but instead warns platforms when other intelligence agencies give information about a foreign intelligence service operating accounts on the network.
Members of Congress have also inquired about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authorities, lobbying to extend the law’s Section 702 (which authorizes the warrantless surveillance of foreign persons stationed overseas).
But Republicans say the law allows the FBI to snoop on numerous Americans since it has broad access to data. The FBI has had difficulties with 702, but additional guardrails have been installed since the flaws were uncovered, as Rep. Pramila Jayapal noted when bringing up bipartisan concerns regarding renewing.