FBI Director Christopher Wray acknowledged Thursday that he left a congressional hearing over the summer in order to go on a personal vacation in the Adirondacks.
Mr. Wray said he had told senators before the August hearing that he had limited time, so they shouldn’t have been surprised he didn’t stick around for a second round of questions from Republicans.
He also defended his use of a Gulfstream aircraft to make the flight, saying he is required by law to fly that way when he travels.
“You left an oversight hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, required by statute, so you can vacation with your family. I find that unbelievable and indefensible,” Sen. Josh Hawley told the director.
Mr. Hawley, Missouri Republican, pointed out that since Mr. Wray flies on a plane controlled by the bureau, he could have made it wait.
“I had to leave when I said I was going to leave,” Mr. Wray replied during Thursday’s hearing in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
He said he reimburses the FBI for use of the plane and said he would turn over receipts for the travel.
The exchange came as Republicans are increasingly finding reasons to chide the bureau.
Sen. Ron Johnson challenged Mr. Wray over the Wisconsin Republican’s claim that the FBI “set me up” by arranging a suspicious briefing in 2020 where he was told he might be a target of Russian disinformation, then seeing the briefing’s contents leaked in 2021.
“Why won’t you tell us who directed that briefing?” Mr. Johnson demanded.
The leaked information became an issue in Mr. Johnson’s reelection race, with his Democratic opponent citing it. Mr. Johnson won reelection last week.
“Somebody leaked that FBI briefing,” he said. “That is election interference.”
Mr. Wray said he couldn’t identify a person who arranged the “defensive” briefing, but said he would offer a new explanation of how the briefing system works.
Mr. Hawley challenged Mr. Wray with a list of areas where whistleblowers have criticized the bureau’s activities, including alleging the FBI is ginning up cases to try to make it seem like there are more domestic terrorism events.
“Do you think you are still up to this job?” Mr. Hawley demanded.
“I absolutely think I’m still up to this job, and I think our workforce feels the same way,” Mr. Wray said.
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