WASHINGTON — FBI Director Chris Wray said Thursday he could neither confirm nor deny that former President Donald Trump, his former aides or members of Congress were or were not under investigation for any role in instigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Appearing before the House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on Thursday, Wray was asked by two different Democrats whether the FBI was investigating the role of former President Trump and whether he incited the Jan. 6 riot.
He first said, “I'm not aware of any investigation that specifically goes to that but we have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of investigations related to January 6 involving lots and lots of different pieces of it and I want to be careful.”
But then, asked whether the FBI was investigating Trump — or any of his aides, or any members of Congress — Wray said he could neither confirm nor deny any FBI investigation.
Earlier, House Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nadler, D.-N.Y., had blasted what he described as an "intelligence failure" in how the FBI handled threat information before the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.
Opening the hearing, Nadler noted that the Jan. 6 attack "was planned in the open on popular social media platforms. Right-wing militia groups trained for it. Maps of the Capitol grounds circulated online long before the crowds arrived in Washington. And, of course, President Trump and his allies had been whipping his supporters into a frenzy for weeks."
Wray did not initially answer directly. He noted that none of the more than 500 people charged so far had been under FBI investigation previously, suggesting that it would have been hard to have tracked them in advance.
"You can be darn sure that we are going to be looking hard at how we can do better, how we can do more, how we can do things differently in terms of collecting and disseminating" intelligence on domestic extremism, he said.
Two and a half hours into the hearing, Wray addressed references by Nadler and others to the threats to the Capitol that were circulating on social media. Asked by Eric Swalwell, D.-Calif., whether the FBI had received any tips from social media companies, Wray said he didn’t know.
But, he added, “Certainly we were aware of online chatter about the potential for violence, but I’m not aware that we had any intelligence indicating that hundreds of individuals were going to storm the Capitol itself.”