House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) has issued a subpoena to FBI Director Christopher Wray in connection with a now-withdrawn memo that explored avenues for gaining information on white supremacists’ interaction with local Catholic churches.
The memo, a product of the Richmond, Va., FBI field office, discussed meeting with church leaders to review “the warning signs of radicalization and to enlist their assistance to serve as suspicious activity tripwires.”
The memo has become the basis for GOP lawmakers accusing the department of developing an anti-Catholic bias in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade that spurred threats at both churches and abortion clinics.
The FBI memo detailed growing overlap between white nationalist groups and “Radical-Traditionalist Catholics,” which it identifies as a small minority within the church.
Jordan is in possession of the memo, which has been redacted in some places.
“The limited information that was provided to the Committee makes clear that we must possess all responsive material without redactions. From this selective production, we know that the FBI, relying on information derived from at least one undercover employee, sought to use local religious organizations as ‘new avenues for tripwire and source development,’” Jordan wrote, pointing to two prior letters seeking information on the memo.
“Americans attend church to worship and congregate for their spiritual and personal betterment. They must be free to exercise their fundamental First Amendment rights without worrying that the FBI may have planted so-called ‘tripwire’ sources or other informants in their houses of worship.”
Wray himself has condemned the memo.
“When I first learned of the piece I was aghast, and we took steps immediately to withdraw it and remove it from FBI systems. It does not reflect FBI standards. We do not conduct investigations based on religious affiliation or practices, full stop. We have also now ordered our Inspection Division to take a look at how this happened and try to figure out how we can make sure something like this doesn’t happen again,” he said in a March hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“I will note it was a product by one field office, which, of course we have scores and scores of these products. And when we found out about it, we took action. We’re also taking steps to reinforce with our workforce, all of the long standing policies we have that speak to this kind of thing. We’ve got refresher training for the relevant employees, etc. And we do not and will not target people for religious beliefs, and we do not and will not monitor people’s religious practices.”
The FBI on Monday acknowledged receipt of the subpoena.
“The FBI recognizes the importance of congressional oversight and remains fully committed to cooperating with Congress’s oversight requests consistent with its constitutional and statutory responsibilities. The FBI is actively working to respond to congressional requests for information –including voluntary production of documents,” the agency said in a statement.
Wray is the highest-level official to be subpoenaed by the committee under GOP leadership, though the panel has sent numerous letters to other officials across numerous inquiries, including Attorney General Merrick Garland and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.
Updated at 3:15 p.m.