A group of Republican senators are demanding that the Federal Bureau of Investigation ‘repair the damage’ to its credibility after a series of errors surrounding the origin of the anti-Catholic memo that targeted traditional Catholics as potential ‘terrorists.’
The memo, which has since been retracted by its creators in the FBI Richmond field office, was a focus in congressional oversight action and hearings last year and garnered significant criticism by Republican lawmakers.
In a letter obtained by Fox News Digital, Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and 14 of their colleagues, demanded FBI Director Christopher Wray give a ‘coherent and complete response’ to the Senate after its apparent failures in reviewing how the memo was ever created and the agency’s compliance with congressional oversight on the matter.
‘We are writing about the FBI’s failure to provide information requested by members relating to the now infamous Richmond memo while misleading this body with what little information it did provide,’ the senators wrote.
‘We recently also learned that the FBI permanently deleted critical records related to the memo, and one of the authors of the Richmond memo prepared a second, external report in coordination with headquarters that was intended to be circulated outside the Richmond office to the full FBI,’ they said.
According to the lawmakers, the FBI ‘for months used its internal review of the Richmond memo as an excuse not to provide records or respond to members’ questions.’
‘Despite the completion of what we now know was a very narrow internal review, limited to only certain aspects of this single internal analyst report, FBI has repeatedly ignored member requests for records that would enable Congress to conduct its own investigation. This includes FBI’s repeated failure to fulfill the March 1, 2023, request by the Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, Charles Grassley, and Judiciary Committee Ranking Member, Lindsey Graham,’ the letter states.
The ranking members asked the agency for copies of the correspondence between the intelligence analysts who drafted the Richmond memo and anyone of higher rank related to the report, an unredacted copy of the Domain Perspective memo, and a copy of all reports issued within FBI or DOJ within the past five years alleging a link between any primarily religious or conservative association or entity and violent extremism.
‘Now we know that information related to the Richmond memo wasn’t provided to Congress because the FBI deleted the records as soon as the incident became public,’ the lawmakers stated, citing a report released by the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 4, in which Deputy Director Paul Abbate ordered Richmond Special Agent in Charge Stanley Meador to ‘take [the memo] down’ as soon as it became public.
According to Meador, there was then a ‘follow-up call’ from Tanya Ugoretz, the FBI’s assistant director of the Directorate of Intelligence, which ordered Meador to notify the deputy director and Ugoretz, ‘‘when [he] had taken the necessary steps’ to remove the memorandum, and anything referring to the document, from FBI systems,’ the senators note.
‘FBI must provide an immediate explanation for its order to delete records related to this incident, which not only obstructs congressional oversight, but also means the FBI’s internal review itself did not have access to documents that may have provided critical information on the incident. The FBI must also explain why it withheld this information from the Senate, despite repeated requests for records,’ they said.
The senators said that based on now-available information, Wray’s claims under oath before Congress that the memo was ‘a single product by a single field office’ was ‘misleading, and that other offices had significant contributions to the memo.
‘Despite the internal memo’s obvious flaws, it was approved by layers of FBI bureaucracy, including the Chief Division Counsel and the Special Agent in Charge (SAC),’ the senators wrote.
‘Indeed, FBI’s October 27 letter indicated that a total of seven individuals were involved in the drafting, review, and approval of the memo,’ they said.
‘That a product this defective was reviewed by seven FBI employees and senior agents is evidence of a cultural problem at FBI that points well beyond a single report,’ they said. ‘This broader crisis of FBI leadership is part of an ongoing pattern of weaponization of federal law enforcement against ordinary citizens that we have warned you about at length, and which the FBI must address,’ they said.
The FBI must respond to the senators by Feb. 14.