FBI director Christopher Wray defended his agency against Republican accusations of political bias Wednesday, dismissing claims he was “protecting” Democratic President Joe Biden’s family while going after former President Donald Trump, a Republican, and other conservatives.
“Absolutely not,” Wray retorted during a combative House Judiciary Committee hearing when asked by Republican member and staunch Trump supporter Matt Gaetz if he was “protecting the Bidens.”
“The FBI does not, has no interest in protecting anyone politically,” Wray said.
The hearing marked Wray’s first appearance before the oversight panel since Republicans recaptured the House of Representatives following the 2022 midterm elections.
Wray, who was appointed by Trump and retained by Biden, has become a lightning rod for Republican criticism that the Biden Administration has “weaponized” the FBI and the Justice Department against its political foes.
The criticism has intensified over the past year, particularly after the FBI executed a search of Trump’s residence in Florida last August as part of an investigation into the former president’s mishandling of classified documents after he left the White House in 2021.
The unprecedented search, which led to Trump’s indictment last month, has fueled Republican allegations that the FBI is out to get Trump.
Republican criticism of the FBI is not limited to the Mar-a-Lago search. During the hearing on Wednesday, Republicans aired a litany of old grievances at the FBI, from the bureau’s alleged failure to investigate the Biden family for their alleged corruption to its proclivity to target pro-life activists and work with social media companies to “censor” conservative speech.
Wray, a long-time Republican, scoffed at the notion that he was hostile to conservatives.
“The idea that I’m biased against conservatives seems somewhat insane to me, given my own personal background,” Wray said.
In his prepared testimony, Wray highlighted the FBI’s critical investigation and national security work, citing the arrest of more than 20,000 violent criminals and child predators and investigations of cartels and malicious Chinese activities.
Those highlights fell by the wayside, though, as the hearing devolved into what has become a familiar display of partisanship before the House Judiciary Committee in recent years.
The panel’s Republican chairman, Jim Jordan of Ohio, a staunch Trump supporter, said there is a “two tier system of justice” in the United States.
Jerry Nadler, the Democratic ranking member of the panel, said that “it’s absurd that House Republicans are attacking the FBI and DOJ for doing their job and ensuring that no person is above the law.”
Republicans angry at the FBI’s perceived “politicization” have threatened to “defund” the bureau. However, Wray warned that cutting off the bureau’s funding would be disastrous.
“We’d have hundreds more violent criminals on the streets,” he said in response to a question. “Dozens more violent gangs terrorizing communities. Hundreds more child molesters on the loose. Hundreds more kids left at those predators’ mercy instead of being rescued. Scores of threats from the Chinese Communist Party being left unaddressed. Hundreds of ransomware attacks left unmitigated. Terrorist attacks, both jihadist-inspired and domestic violent extremists not prevented that would succeed against Americans.”