Christopher Wray, FBI Director, has rebuffed all requests from Republican representatives for information on Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who is now being investigated for his huge political bias regarding President Donald Trump and his role in getting Hillary Clinton exonerated.
Prompting Rep. Ron DeSantis to tell the director he was close to “walking into contempt of Congress”.
Making his first appearance before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Mr. Wray found himself defending the bureau against accusations of political bias stemming from events that happened before he was sworn into office in August.
Mr. Strzok, who led the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s email server in 2016, was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team this summer after an internal probe found he sent messages to a colleague that showed possible bias for Mrs. Clinton and against Mr. Trump.
The Justice Department’s inspector general has been reviewing the FBI’s and the Justice Department’s handling of the Clinton probe, which cleared the former secretary of state of criminal wrongdoing. The messages were sent to another FBI lawyer, Lisa Page, who also temporarily worked on Mr. Mueller’s team, and were discovered in the course of that internal review.
Mr. Wray said he was limited in what he could say about Mr. Strzok because of the investigation, but he told lawmakers he would “take appropriate action if necessary” after the internal watchdog completes its review.
“I’m think it is important we not jump first and ask questions later,” he said.
But lawmakers pressed the FBI director, saying it was necessary to know the degree of Mr. Strzok’s involvement in other matters related to the ongoing investigation into Russian efforts to influence the presidential election last year and possible coordination with members of the Trump campaign.
“Did Peter Strzok help produce and present the application to the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] court to secure a warrant to spy on Americans associated with the Trump campaign?” asked Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican.
“I’m not prepared to discuss anything about the FISA process,” Mr. Wray said.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Jordan called for a second special counsel to be appointed to examine how a FISA warrant was obtained to spy on members of Mr. Trump’s campaign team.
Mr. DeSantis followed up on the point, arguing that if Mr. Strzok was involved, then that information needed to be disclosed to Congress.
“If they were getting this information from a political party and using it for surveillance against an opposition party candidate, that’s a problem,” he said. “Do you agree that would be a problem for the American people?”
“I do agree that any improper use of the FISA process for political purposes is something we should all be very concerned about,” Mr. Wray said.
In the meantime, Mr. Wray said, he has emphasized that the FBI’s decisions “need to be made based on nothing other than facts and the law … not any political considerations on either side of the aisle.”