The FBI has offered to let all members of the House Oversight Committee view a redacted document that GOP Chairman James Comer claims describes an allegation of a bribe to Joe Biden when he was vice president, said a source familiar with negotiations around the panel’s subpoena to acquire the document.
The offer of a briefing to the full Oversight Committee, first reported by CNN, came as the panel prepared to meet later this week to consider a measure to hold FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress for not complying with its subpoena to turn over the document.
Late Wednesday, Comer, R-Ky., announced he was canceling the meeting to consider the contempt resolution.
“The Full Committee business meeting to vote on holding Director Wray in contempt of Congress is now removed from Thursday’s schedule,” he said.
The top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said in a statement: “Chairman Comer’s acceptance of these further accommodations comes after he has spent weeks attacking the FBI despite its extraordinary efforts to provide Committee Republicans the information they claim to seek.”
Comer, R-Ky., released the contempt resolution against Wray on Wednesday, even after the FBI had already let him and ranking member Jamie Raskin, D-Md., view the document on Capitol Hill this week.
Comer subpoenaed the FBI last month for the document, called an FD-1023 form, which he and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, allege “describes an alleged criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Biden and a foreign national relating to the exchange of money for policy decisions." Comer has said the scheme involved a $5 million payment from a foreign national in exchange for a policy outcome.
The FBI declined to provide the document, saying it is bound by Justice Department policy, which “strictly limits when and how confidential human source information can be provided outside of the FBI.”
Comer then vowed to move forward with holding Wray in contempt of Congress unless he turned over the document. In a phone call with Comer, Grassley and Wray last week, Wray had offered to allow the leaders of the committee to review the document "in a secure manner," the FBI said.
On Monday, the FBI briefed Comer and Raskin on Capitol Hill to give them a chance to review the document. A senior law enforcement official said last week that the FBI would redact information that could reveal the source’s identity.
Speaking to reporters outside the secure briefing site after the briefing Monday, Comer said that the “FBI again refused to hand over the unclassified record to the custody” of the committee and that the panel plans to consider the contempt measure Thursday.
“FBI officials confirmed that the unclassified FBI-generated record has not been disproven and is currently being used in an ongoing investigation,” he said Monday.
Although the House has canceled votes for the rest of the week, after conservatives shut down the floor, Comer said Thursday’s hearing will go forward. “It’s still on,” he said as he left the Capitol on Wednesday evening. “But there’s some serious negotiations taking place.”
In a statement earlier Wednesday, Comer said the FBI hasn’t complied with its subpoena, and he accused the agency of a “coverup by leaking a false narrative to the media.”
“The case is not closed as the White House, Democrats, and the FBI would have the American people believe,” he said. “The FBI created this record based on information from a credible informant who has worked with the FBI for over a decade and paid six figures.”
Comer claimed that the unnamed informant had “first-hand conversations with the foreign national” who is alleged to have bribed Biden and that former Attorney General William Barr said the record was given to the U.S. attorney in Delaware for that office's investigation of the Biden family’s business dealings.
“Americans have lost trust in the FBI’s ability to enforce the law impartially and demand answers, transparency, and accountability,” Comer said. “The Oversight Committee must follow the facts for the American people and ensure the federal government is held accountable.”
The FBI and Scott Brady, then the U.S. attorney for Western Pennsylvania, reviewed the allegation when it was made in 2020, as well as other information about Hunter Biden’s dealings in Ukraine, a senior law enforcement official said last week. The bribery allegation, however, wasn’t substantiated, the official said.
White House spokesperson Ian Sams slammed the committee’s investigation.
“Instead of spending their time and energy working on the issues that matter most to the American people, like lowering costs, creating jobs, or strengthening health care, congressional Republicans, led by House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer and his committee, have spent six months wasting taxpayer resources to stage politically-motivated stunts disguised as ‘investigations,’" Sams said in a statement.
Reached for comment Wednesday, Oversight Committee Democrats referred NBC News to Raskin's statement following the FBI's briefing this week: "Comer’s actions prove that his interest in issuing this subpoena was never about seeking the truth, but was always about weaponizing the powers of this Committee to hold Director Wray in contempt as part of MAGA Republicans’ efforts to discredit and ultimately ‘dismantle’ the FBI.”
Representatives for the Justice Department and the FBI didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The FBI has said in recent statements that it had been cooperative with Comer’s request and that “the escalation to a contempt vote under these circumstances is unwarranted.”
The White House has also criticized the committee’s investigations, arguing they are politically motivated and designed to hurt Biden’s re-election chances.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told NBC News on Wednesday that the full House would take up the contempt resolution against Wray “right after” the committee advances the measure.