- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2020

House Republicans scolded FBI Director Christopher A. Wray for what they characterized as a feeble response to a damning report about the bureau’s bungling of a surveillance warrant application for Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

In his first congressional appearance since the blistering report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, Mr. Wray tried to reassure lawmakers the FBI had changed since late 2016 and 2017.

That’s when, in a bid to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant on Mr. Page, FBI officials withheld and doctored evidence, according to the Horowitz report.

“The failures highlighted in that report are unacceptable — period,” he told the House Judiciary Committee. “They don’t reflect who the FBI is as an institution and they cannot be repeated.”

Mr. Wray insisted he had “gone above and beyond” to provide “accountability” and “rigor,” including making more than 40 changes to the FBI’s FISA policies and procedures.

That wasn’t good enough for GOP lawmakers on the panel. They rebuked the FBI director for not taking stronger disciplinary measures against officials who botched the Page warrant application.

“You used the word ‘unacceptable.’ I would think you would find a stronger word for what has happened by the actions of people who sullied the reputations of every decent person at the FBI and disgraced the agency you now head,” said Rep. Tom McClintock, California Republican.

“I’m terribly disappointed you can’t summon the outrage to put it in stronger words than ‘this is unacceptable and doesn’t represent the FBI,” he said. “Unfortunately at the moment, it does represent the FBI or at least the leadership of the FBI. You were appointed to clean things up.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, accused Mr. Wray of downplaying the gravity of the inspector general’s findings, chiding Mr. Wray for calling the report “constructive criticism.”

“I’m concerned you’re not taking this seriously enough,” Mr. Jordan said. “Are you taking it serious enough, Director Wray?”

The FBI director repeatedly tried to assuage lawmakers that any employee who bypasses the rules will be held accountable. He said agents involved in the Page probe have been referred to the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility for possible disciplinary action.

Mr. Wray said even some bit players in the investigation had been referred to the Office of Professional Responsibility in an abundance of caution.

Republicans remained skeptical.

“I don’t trust your agency anymore,” Mr. McClintock said. “You have lost the trust of an awful lot of Americans.”

Democrats mostly sidestepped the FISA controversy at the hearing, instead grilling Mr. Wray about whether he had been asked to open investigations that would politically benefit President Trump.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, said he was concerned that after the Senate’s impeachment vote was over, Mr. Trump would seek revenge investigations of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, his son Hunter and former National Security Adviser John R. Bolton.

Mr. Wray would not directly answer the question, saying the FBI would only open investigations “based on the facts and the law and proper predication.”

“My commitment to doing things by the book includes not talking about whether or not a particular investigation does or does not exist,” he said. “You shouldn’t read anything into that. That’s not a hint that anything is happening. I just don’t think that’s a question I can responsibly answer if I’m going to be faithful to my commitment to doing things by the book.”

Democrats also pressed Mr. Wray about the FBI’s efforts to protect against foreign meddling in the 2020 election. Mr. Wray said the FBI has not seen efforts by Russia to target election infrastructure as it did in 2016, though Russia’s disinformation campaigns have remained ongoing since the last presidential election.

The FBI is seeing false personas, fake media accounts and social-media posts to spread fake news to push Russian interests, he said.

Stopping the Russian influence campaigns poses a unique First Amendment challenge to the FBI because it is not “the truth police,” Mr. Wray told the panel.

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