FBI director defends the bureau's handling of security clearance for White House aide accused of spousal abuse
FBI Director Christopher A. Wray will be one of six top intelligence agency heads to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee for its annual worldwide threats hearing. (Reuters) February 13 at 11:39 AM Email the author
FBI Director Christopher A. Wray on Tuesday defended the bureauâs handling of a security clearance investigation into a senior White House aide accused of spousal abuse.
âThe FBI process involves a fairly elaborate set of standards, protocols,â he said at a Congressional hearing. âI am quite confident that in this instance, the FBI followed established protocols.â
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 âwe passed that on as well.â
Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, declined to comment on Porterâs case or those of other White House officials, including Jared Kushner, the presidentâs son-in-law and senior adviser, who have temporary security clearance but still have access to classified information.Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said Feb. 13 that âthere should be no doubtâ Russia saw its meddling in the 2016 presidential elections as âs uccessful.â (Reuters)
But in general, Coats said, people with temporary clearance should have limited access to classified information.
At the hearing, which ranged over a host of topics, the U.S. governmentâs top intelligence official also said he expects Russia to continue using propaganda, false personas and other tactics to undermine the upcoming elections.
âThere should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past effortsâ to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign âas a success,â and it âviews the 2018 midterm electionsâ as another opportunity to conduct an attack, said 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 âevery expectationâ that Russia will try to influence the coming elections.
The committeeâs Democratic vice chairman faulted the Trump administration for not preparing for potential R ussian interference in the 2018 elections.
âMake no mistake: This threat did not begin in 2016, and it certainly didnât end with the election,â said Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.). âWhat 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.â
âDespite all of this, the president inconceivably continues to deny the threat posed by Russia,â Warner continued. âHe didnât increase sanctions on Russia when he had a chance to do so. He hasnât even tweeted a single concern. This threat demands a whole-of-government response, and that needs to start with leadership at the top.âChristopher Wray, Mike Pompeo and Dan Coats testify on Capitol Hil on Tuesday. (Jim Lo Scalzo/ EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
[FBI Director defends bureauâs integrity as GOP lawmakers press him on Trump, Clinton probes]
The intelligence chiefs also said that North Koreaâs presence at the Olympics in South Korea, which saw an historic visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong Unâs sister, had not changed the intelligence communityâs assessment that the regime is trying to build nuclear weapons to threaten its neighbors and the United States.
âThe decision time is becoming ever closer in terms of how we respondâ to North Koreaâs weapons development, Coats said.
Pompeo said his agency has completed an analysis of how North Korea would respond to a U.S. military strike, as well as what it would take to bring the regime to the negotiating table. He offered to describe that analysis only in a closed, classified session.
Pompeo also responded to reporting last week by The New York Times and The Intercept about an intelligence operation to retrie ve classified National Security Agency information believed to have been stolen by Russia. The Times reported that U.S. spies had been bilked out of $100,000, paid to a shadowy Russian who claimed to be able to deliver the secrets, as well as compromising information about President Trump.
Pompeo categorically denied that the intelligence agency had paid any money, directly or indirectly. He claimed that the newspaper had been duped by the same person trying to sell the U.S. government information that turned out to be bogus.