It was the latest sign of tension between the president and senior officials over electoral security. Trump previously warned that expanding mail-in voting due to COVID-19 would lead to massive voter fraud, and on July 30 tweeted that mail-in voting was turning out to be a “catastrophic disaster.”
Trump and his associates have also sought to downplay reports from the intelligence community that Russia is once again seeking to influence voters on its behalf, as it did in 2016.
Trump and other administration officials have been eager to stay focused on the Chinese threat, with the president tweeting angrily last week after Wray’s testimony about election interference instead focused on Russia.
Meadows criticized the FBI director in his interview with CBS, linking Wray’s remarks about voter fraud to an investigation into the FBI’s handling of Russian ties to the Trump campaign. The president and his allies denounced the investigation, which, according to a watchdog, was flawed but generally legitimate.
“Well, with all due respect to Director Wray, he’s having a hard time finding emails in his own FBI, let alone whether there is any voter fraud.
He then suggested that Wray needed more information on the allegations of voter fraud that have surfaced in several places.
“Maybe he needs to get involved on the pitch and then he would change his testimony on Capitol Hill,” Meadows said.
It was an unusually sharp critique of an FBI director, especially one who had been appointed by Trump.
Wray feels angry for the second week in a row
In testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Thursday, Wray said the FBI took seriously “all election threats,” including voter fraud or voter suppression.
But in response to a question from Michigan Democratic Senator Gary Peters, the FBI director said the agency had not seen evidence of widespread voter fraud, at least not to date.
“Now we have never seen, historically, any sort of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether by mail or otherwise,” he said. “We have seen electoral fraud from time to time at the local level. ”
It’s the kind of nuanced response that pissed off Trump last week when Wray was questioned during a House hearing by lawmakers about Antifa and its role in the violence that has marred peaceful protests in recent months.
WATCH Congress rejects Trump’s comments on the peaceful transfer:
Wray said Antifa activists were a serious concern and that the FBI had opened investigations into people who identify with him and engaged in violence. But, he said, “it is not a group or an organization. It is a movement or an ideology ”. This comment angered the president and some of his supporters who want to see Antifa treated like a terrorist group.
He told the Senate this week that people associating with Antifa have organized at the local or regional level but not at the national level. Wray also said “militia types” were also being investigated for violent activity during the protests.
“We sometimes call it almost like an ideology salad bar, a little of this, a little of that,” he said.
Respected by election interference, Wray appeared to modify his response on Thursday from last week, citing Russia, China and Iran as potential threats.