FBI Director Christopher A. Wray will appear Tuesday morning before a Senate panel, where he is expected to field questions on security clearances for White House personnel and whether he remains confident in the independence of his agents.
Wray will be one of six top intelligence agency heads to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee for its annual worldwide threats hearing, which comes as the White House is seeking to deflect criticism over its handling of a security clearance for a senior aide accused of spousal abuse by saying it relies on law enforcement and intelligence agencies to run the process.
The hearing also comes as the bureau is under fire from President Trump and his GOP allies for its handling of investigations related to Russian meddling in the 2016 election and Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Though the Russia probe is now led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, he is using FBI agents and federal prosecutors to conduct the investigation, which began under Wray’s predecessor in July 2016.
Democrats are expected to ask whether Wray, who in December defended his agency’s independence and integrity before the House Judiciary Committee, is still confident that his agents are acting in an impartial manner in the Russia probe. House Republicans have said in a recently released memo that political bias at the FBI led to the use of Democratic Party-funded material in an application for a surveillance warrant on a former Trump campaign adviser; the release of a rebuttal memo by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee has so far been blocked by the White House, citing the need to remove classified information from it.
Mueller is examining, among other things, whether Trump or his associates coordinated with Russian officials to undermine Clinton’s White House bid and whether the president sought to obstruct the investigation.
There also will be questions, however, for CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and other spy chiefs about whether they see signs of Russian activities aimed at undermining U.S. democracy or the upcoming midterm elections and what the government is doing to deter them.
For National Security Agency Director Michael S. Rogers, who will be retiring this spring, this may be his final threat hearing. The House Intelligence Committee has not yet scheduled its annual hearing this year, an intelligence official said.
Also testifying will be the Defense Intelligence Agency Director Robert P. Ashley Jr. and the head of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Robert Cardillo.