By Daniel Payne
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan on Monday threatened to hold FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress if the bureau does not comply with congressional subpoenas related to evidence that the agency may have spied on Catholic Americans.
Jordan last week grilled Wray during his testimony concerning a leaked memo from the bureau’s Richmond division that described plans to investigate Catholic communities. The document discussed monitoring what it deemed “radical-traditionalist” Catholics over alleged concerns of violent extremism among the lay faithful.
At the hearing, Jordan and other members of the committee asked Wray why he has not released the names of the FBI agents involved in crafting the memo and why the FBI has refused to provide an unredacted copy of it.
Wray told Jordan that the FBI is conducting an internal review of that memo and that the bureau would be willing to “work collaboratively with the committee” as part of the congressional investigation. In his letter this week, Jordan said the FBI’s response to congressional subpoenas has been “wholly inadequate and has materially impeded the committee’s oversight efforts.”
The FBI has produced some documentation in response to congressional demands, Jordan wrote, but it has failed to produce an unredacted version of the controversial memorandum concerning the investigations into local Catholic communities.
The documentation provided thus far by the FBI also obscures key details, Jordan wrote, including the process by which the memorandum was circulated and the senior intelligence analysts who approved the program.
“The committee’s subpoenas impose legal obligations on you to comply and produce responsive materials,” Jordan wrote. “Thus, your refusal to produce documents responsive to the committee’s subpoenas — months after the return dates — is unacceptable.”
The congressman gave Wray until July 25 to comply with the numerous committee requests.
“If the FBI fails to do so,” Jordan wrote, “the committee will take action, such as the invocation of contempt of Congress proceedings, to obtain compliance with these subpoenas.”
Wray had told Jordan earlier this month that he would “find out if there’s more of the document that can be shared” with the committee.
“We’ve tried to be very careful with what we redact, and there’s always a basis for it,” Wray said, “so let me go back and see if there’s more that we can provide.”
The revelation of the memo earlier this year generated criticism of the FBI, with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops declaring the secretive program an instance of “religious profiling” and 20 state attorneys general calling for the FBI to “produce publicly all materials relating to the memorandum and its production.”
In his letter on Monday, Jordan also demanded the FBI comply with subpoenas related to the bureau’s investigations into alleged “school board-related threats.”
The bureau had failed to respond appropriately to the committee’s requests for documents related to the FBI’s “targeting of concerned parents who speak out at school board meetings,” Jordan said.