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GOP senators demand the FBI ‘repair the damage’ to it’s credibility over anti-Catholic memo debacle

FIRST ON FOX – 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The memo, which has since been retracted by its creators in the FBI Richmond field office, was a focus in congressional oversight action and hearings last year and garnered significant criticism by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. 

SEVERAL FBI OFFICES CONTRIBUTED TO ANTI-CATHOLIC MEMO, REFUTING WRAY’S TESTIMONY, GOP SAYS

“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. 

FBI INTERVIEWED PRIEST, CHURCH CHOIR DIRECTOR AHEAD OF ANTI-CATHOLIC MEMO, HOUSE GOP FINDS

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.

HEAVILY REDACTED RECORDS SHOW FBI’S TARGETING OF CATHOLICS WENT BEYOND WHAT IT CLAIMED: WATCHDOG

“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. 

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“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. 

The FBI tells Fox News Digital it did not and does not target Catholics. 

“Any characterization that the FBI is targeting Catholics is false,” the Bureau said in a statement. “As the FBI has stated many times, the intelligence product did not meet our exacting standards and was quickly removed from FBI systems. The Director was accurate when he testified that the intelligence product was produced by one field office and that the authors included a couple of sentences referring to cases from other offices. An internal review conducted by the FBI found no malicious intent to target Catholics or members of any other religious faith, and did not identify any investigative steps taken as a result of the product. The FBI is committed to upholding the constitutional rights of all Americans and we do not conduct investigations based solely on First Amendment protected activity, including religious practices. The FBI investigates violence, threats of violence, and violations of federal law.  We have provided hundreds of pages of documents and briefings to Congress to address our findings and the numerous actions we are taking to address identified shortcomings.”

In testimony before Congress on December 5, 2023, FBI Director Christopher Wray challenged the claim that the memo was the product of multiple offices. “So Senator, I think that this notion that other field offices were involved is a garble and let me explain why I say that. The only involvement of the two other field offices was the Richmond authors of the product, included two sentences or something thereabouts, referencing each of these other office’s cases, and they sent those sentences about the other office’s cases to them, not the whole product and asked them, hey, did we describe your case right? That’s all the other offices had. So it was a single field office’s product and I stand by that.”