FBI Director Christopher A. Wray on Tuesday defending the bureau’s handling of a security clearance investigation into a senior White House aide accused of spousal abuse.
“The FBI process involves a fairly elaborate set of standards, protocols,” he said at a Congressional hearing. “I am quite confident that in this instance, the FBI followed established protocols.”
His remarks come as the White House is seeking to deflect criticism over its handling of a security clearance for senior aide, Rob Porter, who stepped down last week, saying it relies on law enforcement and intelligence agencies to run the process.
Speaking before the Senate Intelligence Committee for its annual worldwide threat hearing, Wray said the FBI submitted a partial report on the Porter clearance in March last year, and then a report on the completed investigation in July. Soon after, the FBI received a request for a follow-up, which the bureau completed and provided in November. The FBI closed the file in January and then earlier this month, Wray said, the bureau received additional information and “we passed that on as well.”
At the hearing, which ranged over a host of topics, the U.S. government’s top intelligence official said he expects Russia to continue using propaganda, false personas and other tactics to undermine the upcoming elections.
“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts” to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign “as a success,” and it “views the 2018 midterm elections” as another opportunity to conduct an attack, said Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats.
His assessment was echoed by all five other intelligence agency heads present at the hearing, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who two weeks ago stated publicly he had “every expectation” that Russia will try to influence the coming elections.
The committee’s Democratic vice chairman faulted the Trump administration for not preparing for potential Russian interference in the 2018 elections.
“Make no mistake: This threat did not begin in 2016, and it certainly didn’t end with the election,” said Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.). “What we are seeing is a continuous assault by Russia to target and undermine our democratic institutions, and they are going to keep coming at us.”
“Despite all of this, the president inconceivably continues to deny the threat posed by Russia,” Warner continued. “He didn’t increase sanctions on Russia when he had a chance to do so. He hasn’t even tweeted a single concern. This threat demands a whole-of-government response, and that needs to start with leadership at the top.”
For National Security Agency Director Michael S. Rogers, who will be retiring this spring, this will be his final threat hearing.
The House Intelligence Committee has canceled its annual hearing this year, an intelligence official said.