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Five questions FBI Director Wray must answer when he’s grilled by the House Judiciary Committee

FBI Director Christopher Wray will face off Wednesday with angry lawmakers on Capitol Hill who will demand answers to burning questions about how the bureau’s top brass handled the Hunter Biden probe, targeted Catholic parishes and ignored protocols in their zeal to find Trump-Russia collusion.

And then there are the questions about the FBI’s involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Those are just the top of Republicans’ long list of questions for Mr. Wray when he appears in front of the House Judiciary Committee. The hearing will put Mr. Wray face-to-face with some of his harshest critics who argue the FBI has been weaponized against Mr. Trump and Republicans.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia introduced articles of impeachment against Mr. Wray in May. The resolution is co-sponsored by two of Ms. Greene’s fellow Republicans on the Judiciary Committee — Rep. Barry Moore of Alabama and Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey.

Committee Chairman Jim Jordan has issued subpoena after subpoena to demanding information from Mr. Wray, who was nominated by Mr. Trump in 2017.

The hearing also takes place after an intense stand-off between Mr. Wray and House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer over the FBI’s refusal to share a document detailing unverified allegations that President Biden, while vice president in the Obama administration, accepted a $5 million bribe from a Ukraine businessman. Mr. Comer threatened to hold Mr. Wray in contempt but canceled the vote after the FBI agreed to give committee members access to the document.

As Republican calls to oust Mr. Wray gain momentum, his ability to cool tensions with Congress may hinge on the answers he provides on Wednesday.

The topics Mr. Wray will be grilled on are wide-ranging. Here are some of the big questions for him:

Why did the FBI stonewall access to the Biden bribery document?

The FBI spent months resisting House Republicans’ efforts to view a bureau document that detailed allegations that Mr. Biden took a bribe. The document, known as an FD-1023, came to the attention of the FBI as early as 2017 but only recently emerged in public.

An informant told the FBI that Mr. Biden was paid $5 million by an executive of the Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings. The same executive made a separate $5 million payment to Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, according to lawmakers who viewed the FD-1023.

The document detailed the information provided to the FBI by a confidential human source described as “a trusted, highly credible informant who has been used by the FBI for years,” according to Mr. Comer, Kentucky Republican.

Initially, the FBI insisted the document didn’t exist. Mr. Wray then eventually conceded it did exist and said he’d allow lawmakers to review a redacted version of it at the FBI headquarters. Republicans erupted after Mr. Wray failed to comply with a subpoena demanding he hand over the full document.

Ultimately, Mr. Wray relented and agreed to allow all members of the committee to view the documents and two additional materials referenced in the FD-1023.

Mr. Wray will face questions about why the FBI fought so hard to keep the document under wraps as well as how seriously agents investigated the bribery claim.

Did the FBI influence the Hunter Biden tax probe?

Gary Shapley, an IRS supervisor agent who worked on the Hunter Biden tax fraud investigation, told House lawmakers in May that the FBI sought to stymie the probe by barring his team from talking to witnesses.

In testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Shapley said his team wanted to interview at least 15 witnesses in September 2020, but the bureau limited the number of witnesses to five.

Mr. Shapley also testified that an FBI agent on the case had recently moved to Wilmington, Delaware, and “was concerned about the consequences for him and his family” if they conducted “sensitive” interviews and executed a warrant on Mr. Biden’s guest house.

He has alleged that the FBI “tipped off” Hunter Biden in December 2020 ahead of plans to interview him. Mr. Shapley said the night before a “day of action,” the FBI notified Secret Service and Mr. Biden’s transition team, including people close to Mr. Biden and Hunter Biden, and created an opportunity to “obstruct the approach.”

As Mr. Shapley tells it. Hunter Biden’s attorneys refused to let him be interviewed after the FBI notified the Secret Service and the transition team.

Rep. Jason Smith, Missouri Republican, said Mr. Shapley’s testimony “outlines misconduct and government abuse” by the FBI and other agencies.

Hunter Biden reached a plea deal with the Justice Department last month that will likely spare him prison time.

Lawmakers will want Mr. Wray to explain why the FBI limited the number of witnesses and whether an agent had a conflict of interest in the investigation. They will also want to know if Attorney General Merrick Garland took steps to block the investigation or prevent him from pursuing leads.

What has been done to clean up the FBI in the wake of John Durham’s scathing report?

Mr. Wray can expect searing questions about special counsel John Durham’s report that concluded the FBI leadership was so eager to pursue Trump-Russia collusion in 2016 that they promoted “seriously flawed information” and abandoned their “own principles regarding objectivity and integrity.”

Mr. Durham wrote in his report that the FBI’s behavior was “seriously deficient” and caused “severe reputational harm.”

In testimony last month before the same panel, Mr. Durham detailed how rank-and-file FBI agents apologized to him and became emotional upon learning that the bureau’s top brass withheld information that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was behind allegations that Mr. Trump was in cahoots with Russia.

“There were investigative activities undertaken or not undertaken here which really raise concerns about whether or not the law was followed [or] the policies in place at the FBI were followed,” Mr. Durham said.

Mr. Wray should be ready to tell the committee what steps he has taken to prevent such lapses from recurring and whether any of those involved still work at the bureau.

Why did the FBI target Catholic Churches?

Documents released by the House Judiciary Committee in April revealed that the FI sought to develop sources inside Catholic parishes across the country as part of its effort to crack down on domestic terrorism.

It was revealed that the FBI sought to use “mainline Catholic parishes” as “new avenues for tripwire and source development.”

Mr. Jordan, Ohio Republican, said that targeting Catholics was “outrageous,” and he issued a series of subpoenas for related documents.

Mr. Wray has already spoken about the report, telling a Senate panel that he was “aghast” when learned the FBI was targeting Catholic churches.

“We took steps immediately to withdraw it and remove it from FBI systems. It does not reflect FBI standards,” he told the Senate Intelligence Committee in March. “We do not conduct investigations based on religious affiliation or practices, full stop. We have also now ordered our inspection division to take a look at how this happened and try to figure out how we can make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”

Still, House Republicans haven’t yet had an opportunity to grill Mr. Wray about the memo or why the FBI targeted Catholic churches in the first place.

Some Republicans say the targeting of churches represents a double standard because the FBI hasn’t allocated the same resources to tracking down activists who have firebombed churches and anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers.

Mr. Garland told lawmakers in March that he had deployed the FBI to find those responsible for the attacks at anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, but the FBI has been stymied by “clever” criminals who do their work at night.

He said prosecutors would seek charges against the violent pro-choice activists but the FBI can’t find them.

Did FBI agents participate in Jan. 6 riot?

The FBI has repeatedly dodged questions about whether agents or confidential informants played a role in the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The big question now is whether Mr. Wray will do the same.

A senior FBI official last year refused to confirm or deny if the bureau was involved in the attack and if it sent a former Marine accused of being an FBI plant to help incite the pro-Trump mob to riot and try to stop Congress’ certification of Mr. Biden’s 2020 election victory.

Sen. Ted Cruz pressed Jill Sanborn, executive assistant director for the FBI’s national security branch, about the unproven allegations that federal agents encouraged protesters to break the law.

When the Texas Republican asked her many agents or confidential informants “actively participated” in the riot, Ms. Sanborn said she could discuss “the specifics of sources and methods.”

Mr. Cruz then asked a broader question about whether FBI agents or informants actively participated in the riot, but Ms. Sanborn responded, “Sir, I can’t answer that.”

He brought up Ray Epps, the former Marine some have alleged was an FBI plant who told a crowd the day before the riot that tomorrow “we need to get into the Capitol!”

Ms. Sanborn refused to say. She repeatedly said: “Sir I cannot answer that question.”

Mr. Cruz continued to ask about Mr. Epps’ actions, but Ms. Sanborn continued to rebuff him by saying that she could not answer.

Mr. Wray will have a chance to answer that question when he locks eyes with lawmakers on Wednesday.

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𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗱𝗶𝘁𝘀, 𝗖𝗼𝗽𝘆𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 & 𝗖𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘁𝗲𝘀𝘆:
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