WASHINGTON — Republicans don’t care if it’s true that Joe Biden accepted a bribe as vice president — they just want the FBI to hand over its record of the uncorroborated allegation.
That’s according to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), one of the two Republicans leading the effort to obtain the FBI’s raw material.
“We are not interested in whether the allegations against Vice President Biden are accurate or not,” Grassley said Thursday morning on Fox News. “We’re responsible for making sure the FBI does its job, and that’s what we want to know.”
Grassley and House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) on Wednesday spoke to FBI director Christopher Wray about their demand for the FBI to give them the June 2020 form, created by an FBI line agent, memorializing the tip. Comer asked for the document with a subpoena, a formal legal request that can be enforced by courts if Republicans decide to sue.
Wray offered for the lawmakers to view the document at a secure location, but they refused. Comer said Wednesday that anything less than providing a physical copy would result in House Republicans not suing for the document, but instead holding Wray in contempt of Congress — an action designed to trigger a criminal prosecution, which the Biden administration would be unlikely to pursue.
The FBI tip is part of Comer’s quest for evidence of dirty dealings by the Biden family, whom Comer has accused of receiving mysterious payments from foreign nationals. And the battle over the subpoena fits a broader Republican effort to portray the Justice Department as corruptly shielding Biden while it weighs charges against former president Donald Trump and prosecutes his supporters for rioting at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
White House spokesman Ian Sams said Grassley’s comments amounted to an admission that Republicans aren’t actually trying to get to the truth of the mysterious bribery allegation.
“Instead, they are simply staging sad political stunts to push thin innuendo and spread insinuations to attack the president and get themselves booked on Fox News,” Sams said in an emailed statement.
Both Grassley and Comer said this week that they have somehow read the document even though they don’t physically possess it, and both have said they would make the material public if they got it. That seems to be the reason the lawmakers are unsatisfied by the FBI’s offer for them to view the material at the bureau’s offices, and why they want a physical copy instead.
The FBI has maintained that releasing the form would endanger its confidential human sources, compromise its investigations, and provide no context about whether the bureau considered the information credible.
Citing anonymous sources, CNN reported Wednesday that the tip came from a batch of material that former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani obtained from Ukraine and provided to the Justice Department in 2020, noting that the department said at the time that it didn’t take anything from Ukraine at face value.
Fox News host Bill Hemmer pressed Grassley on how damning the bribery allegation is for the sitting U.S. president — but Grassley couldn’t tell him.
“I don’t know that,” Grassley said. “Let’s put it this way: There’s accusations in it. But it’s not for me to make a judgment about whether these accusations are accurate or not.”
Later on Thursday, HuffPost asked Grassley why he said he was not interested in the truth of the material.
“I can’t make a judgment about it until the FBI says what they have done to follow up,” Grassley said.
But why plan to publicize something without knowing if it’s true?
“Well, listen: I’m oversight of the FBI. I got to know what they think about it,” Grassley said.
In their initial letter to the FBI last month, the Republicans said that as far as they could tell, the FBI and the Justice Department had “enough information to determine the truth and accuracy of the information.” Comer’s subpoena requested only the document itself, however.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, has criticized Comer’s subpoena as overly narrow because it didn’t specify that the chairman wanted the FBI’s evaluation of the tip.
Raskin also spoke to Wray on Wednesday and said he intended to take him up on the offer to view the document. He’s skeptical that it’s terribly incriminating.
“This was an FBI agent’s record of some kind of tip,” Raskin told reporters. “We don’t know how much hearsay is built into it. And it took place during the Trump administration, and the Trump administration Department of Justice didn’t prosecute anyone.”
Speaking on Fox News on Wednesday evening, Comer said he considered the allegation credible because he had separately used bank records to uncover what he alleges are payments from foreign nationals to members of Biden’s family.
“There’s a pattern here that would suggest this is a credible allegation,” Comer said.