Christopher Wray’s disingenuous testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, before he left early on the FBI’s private Gulfstream 550 jet, speaks volumes about the need to defund the FBI — or at least dump its unctuous director.
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and his team of Republicans expected to have the chance to ask a second round of questions.
Grassley pleaded for just an extra 21 minutes.
But Wray took an early mark, dismissing the committee’s constitutional obligation to ensure he answers questions under oath to ensure the FBI complies with the law and is accountable to the American people.
What was so urgent that he had to leave after just three and a half hours?
Was he taking a long weekend in the Adirondacks where his family has a summer home?
It’s worth examining the exchange with Grassley in detail.
“We just heard a half hour ago about you having to leave at 1:30,” Grassley grizzled. “We were going to have seven minutes [each] for first round [questions and] three-minute second rounds. I’ve got seven people on my side of the aisle want their additional three minutes. Is there any reason we couldn’t accommodate them for 21 minutes?”
Wray replied smoothly: “Senator, I had a flight that I’m supposed to be high-tailing it to outta here, and I had understood that we were going to be done at 1:30, so that’s how we ended up where we are.”
Grassley pointed out that the FBI director has a private jet at his disposal and can leave any time he likes.
“If it’s your business trip you’ve got your own plane. Can’t it wait a while?” he asked
Wray replied, “To be honest, I tried to make my break as fast I could to get right back out here.”
Grassley, “You took more than five minutes.”
Wray laughed and the silence that followed only emphasized the disrespect to all senators, but especially to Grassley, the president pro tempore emeritus of the Senate.
Democratic chairman Dick Durbin came to Wray’s rescue, expressing his appreciation that it was Wray’s “third appearance in two years before this committee.”
And every appearance a waste of time, that simply showcased that Wray is a master of evasion. On some of the most serious questions of national security and the politicization of the FBI, Wray had nothing to say. Like Mister Magoo, he sees nothing.
Unlike most things on Capitol Hill these days, the politicization and repeated failures of the FBI are a bipartisan concern.
In the short time they had with Wray, senators from both sides had urgent questions. Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein and Republicans Marsha Blackburn and Grassley were concerned about the FBI’s botching of the Larry Nassar case. Why, when Nassar was convicted in 2016 of sexually abusing US gymnasts, did Wray wait until 2021 to fire one of the agents involved in slow-walking the case?
Grassley complained about a lack of transparency over why the Department of Justice had decided a jury wouldn’t convict FBI agents for their handling of the investigation
Other Democrats were concerned about the FBI not investigating complaints about Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing.
Wray had no answer, nor to questions about Afghan evacuees considered significant security threats after being brought to the US in last year’s bungled withdrawal from Kabul.
“I can’t sit here right now and tell you we know where all of them are located at any given time,” he said.
Wray refused to classify the flood of illegal migration at the southern border as a “national security threat.”
When asked what the FBI was doing to track down 56 suspected terrorists that have crossed the border this year he waffled about “sharing watchlist information” and “investigating any number of individuals.”
He refused to admit that the Russia collusion hoax — in which the FBI treated seriously palpably false allegations that then-candidate Donald Trump was a Russian agent — was in fact a “hoax”.
He refused to agree with Sen. Blackburn that Hunter Biden’s laptop was not “Russian disinformation,” and didn’t respond to whistleblower allegations of an FBI coverup of derogatory information related to the Bidens in October 2020.
He refused to explain to Sen. Ted Cruz why the FBI had blacklisted patriotic historical American symbols such as the Betsy Ross flag, the Gadsden Flag and the Gonzales battle flag as “militia violent extremism” in training documents.
When Sen. Josh Hawley asked why the FBI was “snooping around the concealed carry permit records” of Missourians, he had nothing.
When Sen. Tom Cotton asked why no FBI agent had thought to enforce the law broken by abortion activists parading outside the homes of Supreme Court justices, Wray was impatient: “Our agents are up to their necks enforcing all sorts of laws.”
When the hearing ended at 1:30, Wray ambled over to Grassley to shake his hand. The microphones picked up some of the exchange.
Grassley, a courtly row-crop farmer from Butler County, Iowa, who has a shrewd Columbo-esque tendency to ask “just one more thing,” leaned forward: “I assume you’ve got other business.”
“Yeah,” said Wray.
And off he sauntered, minions in tow.
Grassley’s staff did not know where Wray was going after the hearing and FBI public affairs did not respond to an email Sunday by press time.
But the luxury FBI Gulfstream Wray uses was recorded on Flightradar24 making the one hour and 12 minute flight later that afternoon to bucolic Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks, which happens to be a favorite summer destination since his childhood, when he used to hike the High Peaks and fish for trout, according to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.
Wray, 55, who attended the Buckley School on the Upper East Side and the private Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., graduated from Yale University, the alma mater of his father, Cecil Wray, who was Adirondack Park Agency Commissioner for 14 years.
The FBI’s Gulfstream made another trip to Saranac Lake on Thursday, June 2, returning to Washington, DC on Sunday, June 5.
While there has been controversy over the FBI director commandeering a plane originally intended for counterterrorism use, Wray’s predecessor James Comey used it as his private conveyance as well.
The director is required to reimburse the cost of a coach class airline fare for personal trips, a significant discount on the several thousand dollars an hour it costs to operate the Gulfstream, which is considerably more convenient than Delta.
Wray ensured his testimony was useless, but if he did cut short his testimony to go on vacation at a time when his agency is under fire from all sides, then that is an act of disrespect and insubordination which requires a firm rebuke, or what is the point of Senate oversight?