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Video: FBI Dir. Wray admits leaving Senate hearing for vacation; Sen. Hawley accuses Wray of ‘evasion’

Director Christopher Wray spoke at the Intelligence and National Security Alliance Summit in Washington (Federal Bureau of Investigation/Flickr)
November 17, 2022

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) confronted FBI director Chris Wray on Thursday about an Aug. 4 Senate hearing, which Wray said he “had to leave” to go on vacation. Wray insisted he stuck with the pre-arranged hearing schedule before leaving for the day, but Hawley said he and other Republicans had expected Wray to stay for a second questioning session and that Wray was “evading” oversight by refusing to delay his vacation long enough for the second round of questions.

“In August 4th of this year you were at the Senate Judiciary Committee —you remember that I assume — we had to cut that hearing short,” Hawley began his speaking time during a Thursday Senate hearing.

“We were supposed to do two rounds of questions,” Hawley continued. “You said you had to be somewhere so we cut it short. Republicans were not able to ask a second round as we had been informed we would. The Press reported shortly thereafter that the reason that the hearing had to be cut short is because you were flying on a Gulfstream jet for a personal vacation in the Adirondacks. Please tell me that’s not accurate.”

Wray responded saying, “The hearing was cut short — was not cut short from my experience. We had agreed beforehand on the time and and and length of it and my — I was surprised to find out that anyone on the committee was surprised.”

Wray then said its not only a standard practice, but a required practice that he travel on an FBI plane wherever he goes.

“So you were going on vacation?” Hawley redirected the question.

“I was, yes,” Wray replied.

“So you left a statutorily required oversight hearing in order to go on a personal vacation,” Hawley said.

“I took a flight to go visit my family, as had been previously arranged conjunction with the leadership of the committee . . .” Wray said.

Hawley then read off a quote from the Aug. 4 hearing in which ranking Republican committee member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asked Wray if he had other business before Wray decided to leave, to which Wray said he did.

During that Aug. 4 exchange, Grassley said “If you have a business trip, you’ve got your own plane, can’t it wait awhile?” Grassley also said “we only just heard half an hour ago that you were going to leave” before a planned second round of questioning during the hearing. Wray responded during that back and forth with Grassley that he had to catch his flight.

“And now we find out it was for vacation,” Hawley said Thursday.

Wray then said “the reference to other business was not to that day, it was a reference to the following week where Senator Grassley and I were going to see each other in Iowa when I had other business in Iowa and I did in fact see him then.”

“Wait, so you had to leave the hearing early because you were going to see him later in Iowa in a week?” Hawley asked.

“No I had to leave when I said I was going to have to leave, as had been previously organized with the leadership of the committee,” Wray said.

“You left an oversight hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee required by statute so you could vacation with your family,” Hawley responded. “I find that absolutely unbelievable and frankly indefensible.”

Wray went on to reiterate that he is required to fly on an FBI plane for all travel, whether for business or personal reasons.

Hawley then reiterated, “You denied the ability of members of Congress to ask you questions because you had to go on a personal vacation using a government plane.”

Hawley took issue with Wray’s decision to leave the August hearing in light a number of recent controversial episodes involving the FBI.

“The FBI has been sending more than, in one instance, a dozen armed agents to a rural Pennsylvania home of a Catholic pro-life demonstrator to arrest him at gun point in front of his children in early morning hours despite the fact that he posed no risk of violence or threat and had previously offered to turn himself,” Hawley said.

Hawley raised the issue of another FBI whistleblower who alleged the agency was taking its focus away from child sexual abuse cases to prioritize more political casework, such as prosecuting people who entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The FBI whistleblower who raised this issue noted FBI SWAT teams have conducted arrests of individuals wanted for misdemeanor offenses related to Jan. 6.

“They also say, these whistleblowers, the D.C. leadership deliberately suppressed investigations into Hunter Biden, contrary to FBI procedure, and have also retaliated against FBI agents and whistleblowers who have contacted Congress which, by the way they are protected by Statute, to do,” Hawley said. “So this is what’s happening at your FBI while you are evading oversight hearings.”

Hawley then asked Wray “Do you think you’re still up to this job?”

Wray responded, “I absolutely think I’m still up to this job and I think our Workforce feels the same way.”

Hawley replied, “I don’t and frankly I think you should have been gone a long time ago.”