The disciplinary process of FBI agents who mishandled the 2016 Crossfire Hurricane investigation has “slowed” while special counsel John Durham’s investigation continues, according to FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Wray testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. The director’s testimony comes as the bureau is again mired in controversy over recent whistleblower allegations that it wrongly dismissed potentially incriminating evidence against Hunter Biden during the 2020 election. Whistleblowers also accused the bureau of exaggerating the threat from domestic extremists.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) questioned the FBI director on the apparent lack of movement on disciplining staff involved with the seriously flawed investigation into false claims of Trump campaign collusion with Russia.
“Well, we’ve taken a whole slew of actions in response to the Crossfire Hurricane report. I think over 40-plus corrective measures and so forth,” Wray said.
The senator from North Carolina responded: “Has anybody in the bureau been fired or disciplined?”
“There are a number of people who are currently in what we call the office of professional responsibility, which is our disciplinary arm. You may wonder why has that not yielded its results yet, and that is because we are working closely with, cooperating closely with, and assisting the Durham investigation,” Wray answered. “And so that whole process, which is not unusual, has been sort of slowed down to make sure that it does not interfere with the Durham investigation.”
Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz released the findings of his investigation into the origins of Crossfire Hurricane in December 2019, identifying “at least 17 significant errors or omissions in the [former Trump campaign adviser] Carter Page FISA applications, and many additional errors in the Woods Procedures.”
After the release of the report, Wray, who became the FBI’s director in 2017 after the firing of his predecessor James Comey, pledged to prioritize institutional reform and accountability.
“[W]e will review the performance and conduct of certain FBI employees who were referenced in the Report’s recommendations — including managers, supervisors, and senior officials at the time. The FBI will take appropriate disciplinary action where warranted,” Wray wrote in a letter to the inspector general.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote Wray last month detailing whistleblower allegations that at least one person at the FBI ostensibly under review for mishandling the Crossfire Hurricane investigation is involved with further misconduct involving the bureau’s investigation into Hunter Biden.
In August 2020, FBI Supervisory Intelligence Analyst Brian Auten falsely assessed the damaging information that the bureau had received on Biden as fake. Auten dismissed the verifiable and potentially damning reports on Biden as disinformation, whistleblowers allege, according to Grassley.
“FBI Headquarters” used Auten’s report to “improperly discredit negative Hunter Biden information as disinformation and caused investigative activity to cease,” Grassley wrote. “[T]he allegations provided to my office appear to indicate that there was a scheme in place among certain FBI officials to undermine derogatory information connected to Hunter Biden by falsely suggesting it was disinformation.”