CLANCY: Wray’s Hearing Was Like A Boxing Match. Congress Punched, He Ducked

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Michael Clancy Contributor
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‘Ducking the question.’  Those words from California Congressman Darrell Issa captured Republicans’ reaction to FBI Director Christopher Wray’s six hours of testimony at the House Judiciary Committee’s July 12 FBI Oversight Hearing. 

As highlighted in Committee Chair Congressman Jim Jordan’s Opening Statement, the hearing was sweeping in its coverage of issues including the:

  • FBI’s role in censorship of Americans’ free speech on social media in violation of the First Amendment;
  • FBI’s election interference through the suppression of the Hunter laptop story before the 2020 election (See related story at  CLANCY: Biden ‘Campaign Will Be Thrilled’ – A Sordid Tale Of CIA 2020 Election Interference | The Daily Caller ); 
  • DOJ and the FBI targeting parents at school board meetings that resulted in parents being marked with FBI threat tags; 
  • FBI’s Richmond office issuing an investigate memorandum targeting pro-life Catholics; 
  • FBI’s Philadelphia office sending 20 armed agents to arrest pro-life activist Mark Houck at his home at 6:45 a.m. even after local authorities determined there was no case against him and even though his lawyer advised federal authorities that Houck would voluntarily appear for his arrest (ultimately a jury acquitted Houck of the clearly frivolous federal charges in a unanimous verdict);
  • FBI’s FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) abuse — reported in a  2022 FISA court decision — involving over 275,000 instances of the FBI illegally using FISA Section 702 data (which only may be used to investigate non-U.S. persons who are located outside the U.S.) to investigate U.S. citizens in violation of the statute and the Fourth Amendment;
  • FBI’s January 6 investigation; and
  • FBI’s investigation of the Bidens.

Wray’s responses to the pointed questions from Committee members were a litany of ‘I’m not going to get into commenting on that.’ ‘I can’t speak to that.’ ‘I can’t speak to specifics.’ ‘I am not going to confirm or speak to who is or isn’t under investigation.’ ‘I can’t get into that here.’ ‘I am not getting into the details.’ 

The hearing was like a boxing match as Committee members fired questions while Wray bobbed and weaved. 

Wray was especially evasive on the FBI’s abuse of FISA 702 seemingly unaware of or unwilling to speak to the details of the FISA court’s decision, and refusing to even confirm the number of illegal uses of the FISA database.

And so it went as Republican members grew frustrated with what they viewed as Wray’s evasion on issues critical to the country, in particular American’s First and Fourth Amendment rights, and the investigation of alleged corruption involving President Biden and his son.  

Amid all the obfuscation, Wray did offer a few emphatic statements. In response to Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz’s question of whether the FBI is protecting the Biden family, Wray forcefully insisted, ‘Absolutely not.’

Later in the hearing, Wray replied to intense questioning from Chairman Jordan on the Richmond Office’s memorandum targeting Catholics stating that he was ‘aghast and ordered it withdrawn’ when he learned of the memo; and he further testified, ‘It is not a product I will defend or excuse. It is something I thought was appalling.’  

On the FBI’s role in the investigation of the bogus claims of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign, Wray to his credit testified, ‘I consider the conduct that was described in the Durham report as totally unacceptable and unrepresentative of what I see from the FBI every day and must never be allowed to happen again.’

Wray, a Republican and member of the Federalist Society, also directly disputed the claim that he is targeting conservatives, stating, ‘The idea that I am biased against conservatives seems somewhat insane to me given my own personal background.’

It may be that Wray himself is not intending to target conservatives, but clearly things have gone seriously awry at an FBI with rampant FISA abuses illegally targeting Americans, a field office that issues an investigation protocol against Catholics, and another field office that unnecessarily sends 20-armed agents to arrest a pro-life activist at his home in front of his young children. 

At this point, the credibility of the FBI is severely damaged.  Only 37% of registered voters in a recent NBC News poll said they have a positive view of the FBI, down from 52% in 2018.  The time is now for major changes in the FBI’s operations at all levels and field offices.

“Accountability is coming,” promised Virginia Congressman Ben Cline. Our Constitutional rights depend on it.

Michael Clancy is a lawyer, member of the Federalist Society, and noted commentator on constitutional law and political issues.  Follow him on Twitter @MikeClancyVA.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.