House Oversight Committee Chairman Jim Jordan blasted FBI Director Christopher Wray over a leaked memo about the agency targeting Catholics during a committee hearing on Wednesday.
The Richmond, Virginia, FBI field office memo was leaked in February and detailed plans to investigate “radical traditionalist” Catholics. It relied heavily on criteria from the far-left extremist organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and detailed plans to place “informants” inside of churches.
During the hearing, Rep. Jordan asked Wray to define “radical, traditional Catholics.”
In response, Wray claimed that he was “aghast” when he heard about the memo “and ordered it withdrawn and removed from FBI systems,” adding that it “was a single product by a single field office.”
Rep. Jordan then demanded that Congress be allowed to interview the FBI employees who drafted the memo, but Wray said that it the incident is currently “working on finishing an internal review” and will provide a brief of their findings. He would not agree to provide the committee with the names of those who were involved.
Jordan then read from the memo directly, “Let me just read from page four, ‘Provide new opportunities to mitigate extremist threat through outreach to traditional Catholic parishes and the development of sources with the placement and access to report on places of worship.’ That’s pretty fancy language for they’re trying to put informants in the parish, in the church. That’s what this memorandum said, director, from one of your field offices, and you won’t let us talk to the people who did.”
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) July 12, 2023
“Do you think priests should be informants inside the church, director?” Rep. Jordan asked.
“We do not recruit, open, or operate confidential human sources to infiltrate, target, report on religious organizations,” Wray claimed.
“It sounds like you were trying to do it in Richmond, Virginia,” the congressman snapped back.
The FBI director claimed that, “That product did not, to as best as we can tell, result in any investigative action as a result of it. None.”
Rep. Jordan read more from the memo, “Richmond assesses extremist interests in radical traditional Catholics is likely to increase over the next 12 to 24 months in the run up to the next general election.”
The congressman then read from the same paragraph, “Events in which extremists and radical traditional Catholics might have common cause include legislation, judicial decisions in such areas as abortion rights, immigration, affirmative action, and LGBTQ protections.”
“It’s politics. That’s the motivation in the run-up to the next election and they talk about the border, affirmative action and abortion rights. It’s total politics. I mean, I think it’s interesting, that … we just got a decision from a bunch of Catholics who sit on the United States Supreme Court relative to affirmative action. Politics was the total motivation here and that’s what’s scary. That’s what I think is so frightening.”
Jordan pointed out that “Five people signed off on it, including the chief division counsel at the Richmond field office.”
The congressman also asked for an unredacted copy, which Wray did not agree to provide.
“I will find out if there’s more of the document that can be shared with you,” Wray said. “We’ve tried to be very careful in what we redact, and there’s always a basis for it.”