(Headline USA) FBI Director Christopher Wray was the target of White House criticism for the second time in a week Friday as Chief of Staff Mark Meadows chided him over remarks made a day earlier to Congress about voter fraud.
Meadows suggested in an interview with CBS that Wray was ill-informed when he told the Senate that there has not been any significant coordinated national voter fraud.
Wray, who last week drew criticism from President Donald Trump for his description of Russian election interference and the threat posed by the anti-fascist movement known as Antifa, said in Senate testimony that the U.S. has only experienced occasional voter fraud and on a local level.
The statement seemed especially foolhardy after reports earlier this week of trays of absentee ballots being found in a Wisconsin ditch, and military ballots — all votes for Trump — found discarded in Pennsylvania.
It was the latest sign of tension between the president and senior officials over election security.
Meadows was critical in his CBS interview of the director, tying his remarks on voter fraud to a probe of the FBI’s potentially corrupt — or at least inept — handling of the Russia hoax.
“Well, with all due respect to Director Wray, he has a hard time finding e-mails in his own FBI, let alone figuring out whether there is any kind of voter fraud,” Meadows said.
He then suggested that Wray needed more information about the allegations of voter fraud that have surfaced in several places.
“Perhaps he needs to get involved on the ground and then he would change his testimony on Capitol Hill,” Meadows said.
It was unusually pointed criticism of an FBI director, especially one who was appointed by Trump.
In his testimony to the Senate Homeland Security committee on Thursday, Wray said the FBI takes “all election-related threats seriously,” including voter fraud or voter suppression.
But in response to a question from Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, the FBI director said the agency has not seen evidence of widespread voter fraud, at least not to date.
“Now, we have not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it’s by mail or otherwise,” he said. “We have seen voter fraud at the local level from time to time.”
It was the kind of answer that riled Trump last week when Wray was asked at a House hearing by lawmakers about Antifa, and its role in violent riots in recent months.
Wray said Antifa activists were a serious concern and that the FBI has launched investigations into people who identify with it and have engaged in violence. But, he said, ignoring evidence, that “It’s not a group or an organization. It’s a movement or an ideology.” Only two days ago organizers unloaded shields and supplies from a U-Haul truck in Louisville, driven by an activist funded by George Soros-funded groups, for rioters to cause mayhem.
Wray told the Senate this week that people who associate themselves with Antifa have organized locally or regionally but not at a national level.
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.