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Tipsheet

Here's How Elise Stefanik Turned the FBI Director Into a Stammering Mess

AP Photo/Barry Reeger, File

On Thursday morning, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) held a hearing featuring FBI Director Christopher Wray, among other representatives from the Biden administration, to learn about threats to U.S. National Security. But when it came time for Wray to answer questions from House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the FBI director suddenly found himself at a loss for words.

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Noting that another House subcommittee had made some 50 different requests for information and documents related to the FBI's operations, Stefanik explained that to date, the FBI had still not complied with those long-outstanding requests. "The FBI is accountable to Congress, and by extension the American people," Stefanik reminded Wray, adding that responding to such standard oversight requests are the "bare minimum" the FBI is expected to do.

Stefanik also noted that the FBI had not made a witness available to another House committee on Thursday, apparently because Wray was appearing before HPSCI, and asked Wray to "commit to sending a witness before the next hearing." That's where Wray clammed up. 

"We're happy to work with you," Wray said, avoiding a firm commitment.

"Can you commit to provide a witness," Stefanik asked again.

"We will of course make people available," Wray responded, again refusing to commit.

"But you didn't make people available today," Stefanik reminded Wray. "Can I get a commitment, 'yes' you will provide a witness?" she asked again. 

"We will work with you to make people available," Wray replied, yet again refusing to commit to providing FBI witnesses for House committees to conduct oversight. 

"That's not a yes," Stefanik highlighted, adding "for the American people, you're having the FBI director refuse to provide a witness."

"I'm not refusing to provide a witness," Wray interjected after repeatedly failing to agree to provide witnesses. "I said I would work with you to make somebody available," he insisted.

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"Great, so somebody will be made available?" Stefanik asked again.

"Yes," Wray finally responded.

"Thank you, that's all I wanted," Stefanik said. "A 'yes.'"

Lest you think Wray had figured out that Stefanik wasn't going to accept squishy non-answers, he again refused to answer questions when Stefanik asked about the FBI's view and handling of Hunter Biden's laptop and stories about its contents. 

"Do you believe the Hunter Biden laptop story is disinformation?" Stefanik asked Wray. 

"I want to be careful," was Wray's non-answer this time. "There is an ongoing investigation," he said, seeking refuge. 

"Do you believe the Hunter Biden laptop story is disinformation?" Stefanik pressed again.

"I don't think there's anything I can share on that in open setting," Wray said, again refusing to answer. 

"Were you aware that the FBI personnel were in contact with Twitter regarding the Hunter Biden laptop story?" Stefanik said, pressing to get any actual answers out of Wray.

"I don't believe FBI personnel were in contact with Twitter about the Hunter laptop story specifically," Wray responded. "I think there were people in contact with Twitter about Russian disinformation efforts."

"Of which the Hunter Biden laptop story was included, according to the FBI," Stefanik pointed out.

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"I don't know exactly what you're looking at," Wray said — again avoiding an answer.

"Were you aware that the FBI had Hunter Biden's laptop since December 2019?" Stefanik asked.

"I can't speak to exactly when we had a laptop available," Wray said, refusing to answer even the most basic of questions that have nothing to do with the laptop's contents or any investigation into them. Again, Wray hid behind the "ongoing investigation" excuse.

"And we have an ongoing investigation as well," Stefanik reminded Wray.

"Our Baltimore field office is working very hard with that U.S. attorney and I expect them to pursue that case as far as it takes," Wray said, trying to explain why he won't answer questions while seemingly implying the matter is being taken seriously and the American people needn't ask questions about it. Stefanik, however, wasn't buying it.

"This stonewalling, Director Wray, the American people deserve answers and this is unacceptable," Stefanik said before trying one last line of questions. 

"Did you sign off on the Mar-a-Lago raid?" she asked.

"Well, first off, it was not a raid," Wray contended. "It was an execution of a search warrant."

"Did you sign off on the execution of the search warrant?" Stefanik asked, tailoring her question to Wray's characterization for another try.

"May I finish?" Wray cut in. "I don't sign off on individual search warrants in that case or in any other," he said.

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"Did Merrick Garland sign off, to your awareness?" Stefanik asked.

"I can't speak to the Attorney General," was Wray's non-answer. 

"Was there dissent at senior levels of the FBI about the conducting of the search warrant?" Stefanik probed.

"I can't speak to internal discussions among the FBI or among the FBI and the Department of Justice," Wray said, again refusing to answer.

"Even though it's been reported in the Washington Post?" Stefanik asked, noting mainstream coverage of the goings-on inside the FBI.

"There's lots of things reported in the media," Wray said in again avoiding the question.

"I know — it leaked from your agency," Stefanik quipped back in another hit at Wray's ability to run the FBI. 


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