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Sens. Lee, Hawley grill Wray over geolocation data and the FBI reportedly working with banks in Jan. 6 probe

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Republican Sens. Mike Lee (Utah) and Josh Hawley (Mo.) pressed FBI Director Christopher Wray about reports of the bureau using cell phone and bank data in its investigation of the deadly January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

During Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, the two Republican senators grilled the FBI director over geolocation data, with Wray saying he was not able to provide specific answers to their inquiries.

“I’m anxious to see those who committed unlawful, violent acts on January 6 brought to justice,” Lee said at the start of his questioning of Wray. “I also believe that […] with this circumstance, like every other circumstance, we have to make sure that the civil liberties of the American people are protected.”

“I’ve heard a number of accounts of individuals who were present in Washington, D.C. but never got anywhere near the Capitol or any violence on January 6 who have inexplicably been contacted by the FBI by agents who apparently were aware of their presence in Washington, D.C. that day—with no other explanation, perhaps, other than the use of geolocation data,” the Utah Republican continued, then asking: “Are you geolocating people, through the FBI, based on where they were on January 6?”

“I think there may be some instances in which geolocation has been an investigative tool, but I can’t speak to any specific situation,” Wray replied.

“But what are you using to do that?” Lee asked. “What’s your basis for authority? Are you using national security letters?”

Wray said, “I don’t believe in any instance we’re using national security letters for investigation of the Capitol—”

“Did you go to the FISA court?” Lee asked, cutting him off.

“I don’t remotely believe FISA is remotely implicated in our investigation,” Wray told Lee.

“Are you using warrants predicated on probable cause?” the senator inquired.

“We certainly have executed a number of warrants in the course of the investigation of January 6,” said Wray. “All of our investigative work in response to the Capitol [riot] has been under the legal authorities that we have in consultation with the [Department of Justice] and the prosecutors.”

Toward the end of Lee’s questioning of Wray, the FBI director offered his assistance regarding legislative ideas that would affect FISA.

“Well, Senator, I’d be happy to work with you to provide a sort of operational assessment of the impact of different legislative ideas,” Wray said. “Certainly, we view our responsibility as not just to protect the American people, but also to uphold the Constitution.”

Wray added, “And we say that every day in the FBI. Certainly, I would want to make sure that any legislative changes to FISA didn’t have unintended, very damaging impact on everything from our sharing of information with our foreign partners, our intelligence community partners; that we didn’t elevate the standard in FISA above the level of what we could get, for example, in an ordinary criminal case—things like that.”

Following his exchange with Wray, Lee called on the FBI director to provide answers regarding geolocation data.

“The FBI has repeatedly opposed efforts to rein in its domestic-surveillance authority under FISA, the PATRIOT Act, and other provisions of federal law,” Lee’s Twitter account posted. “I call upon FBI Director Christopher Wray to give us answers regarding FBI’s collection of geolocation data, and to stop opposing bipartisan legislation designed to protect the constitutional rights of American citizens.”

When Hawley began his questioning, citing Lee’s questions regarding geolocation data, the Missouri Republican asked Wray to elaborate on the answers he gave.

“So when it comes to geolocation data specifically—again, not in a specific instance, but just even the use of geolocation data—I would not be surprised to learn—but I do not know for a fact—that we were using geolocation data under any situation with connection with the investigation of [January 6],” Wray explained. “But again, we do use geolocation data under different authorities and specific instances.”

“Because this is such a sprawling investigation, that would not surprise me. When it comes to metadata, which is a little bit different obviously than geolocation data, I feel confident that we are using various legal authorities to look at metadata under a variety of situations,” the FBI director continued. “But again, the specifics of when, under what circumstances, with whom—that kind of thing I’m not in a position to testify about, with the sprawl and size of the investigation and certainly not in a congressional hearing.”

Hawley then asked Wray to clarify which authorities he was referencing, to which Wray replied that there are “various forms of legal process we can serve on companies that will allow us to get access”.

Citing media reports that the bureau has worked with banks during the investigation and that some banks, specifically Bank of America, may have handed over data of over 200 clients who made purchases in the Washington, D.C. area, Hawley asked, “What do you know about this? Has Bank of America voluntarily turned over information to the bureau about its customers?”

RELATED: Bank of America giving federal agencies customer data to help hunt for Capitol extremists: Tucker Carlson

“I don’t know any of the specifics, so I’d have to look into that,” Wray replied.

Asked if the FBI has requested similar information from other companies, the FBI director said the bureau works with private sector parters, including financial institutions, sometimes and in a variety of ways but that he could not provide an answer about the January 6 investigation specifically.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Mayorkas Border Manifesto: Why the DHS Secretary must be impeached

If this isn’t a reason to impeach Mayorkas, I don’t know what is.

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Alejandro Mayorkas

Listen to “The Smoking Gun: The Mayorkas Memo Telling Border Patrol to Stop Doing Its Job” on Spreaker.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued a memorandum to top DHS officials on Sept 30, 2021, that set the stage for an open border policy that has resulted in the most dangerous national security situation the United States has ever confronted. That seven-page letter, written by Mayorkas and obtained by this columnist, is an open borders blueprint and reveals his purposeful failure to secure the southern border. Numerous retired and current DHS officials said it is sufficient enough for Congress to impeach him.

The Mayorkas policy, which has perpetuated a tsunami of people from all over the world to illegally enter the United States, is simplified and made clear in his memorandum. It is so direct that it is easy to see why the policy overrides almost all U.S. immigration laws by pushing all federal immigration agencies under DHS to exercise  “prosecutorial discretion” [ not the law ] to assess whether those who enter the country illegally should be given the right to stay, despite any criminal background or failure to qualify for asylum.

Some of the memo’s contents have been openly discussed by Mayorkas under questioning by lawmakers at hearings. Even parts of the policies have been exposed in reports but what makes this memo unique is that it is the roadmap the Biden Administration used to implement this failed open border policy that has become the biggest concern for most American voters.

And Mayorkas is the architect of the policy. It is a policy that fails to uphold the Constitution, and current immigration laws and turns Federal law enforcement officers and agents into de facto human traffickers.

“In exercising our discretion, we are guided by the fact that the majority of undocumented noncitizens who could be subject to removal have been contributing members of our communities for years,” states Mayorkas, as he goes on to list all the possible jobs illegal aliens are doing in the nation. “The fact an individual is removable noncitizen therefore should not alone be the basis of an enforcement action against them. We will use our discretion and focus our enforcement resources in a more targeted way.”

Those ‘targeted resources’ Mayorkas was referring to have mostly been directed at processing illegal migrants into the country and not deporting those breaking the law, according to lawmakers and DHS officials who spoke with me. I’ve documented for the past three years on both Fox News’ Sean Hannity and on SaraACarter.com the enormous resources used not to deport but to import illegal aliens into the country.

Rep. Andy Biggs, who is currently co-chair of the Border Security Caucus and the House Judiciary Committee, where he is the Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Federal Government Surveillance. told me Sunday that the memo in its entirety is Mayorka’s ideological push for open borders and it’s “his philosophy, cobbled together in place…the letter reflects his distorted thinking on border security.”

Mayorkas’ ‘distorted thinking’ has now led to calls for his impeachment. There are currently two articles of impeachment against Mayorkas. The articles charge him with “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” and a “breach of public trust.” This memo alone is evidence of that breach with the American public.

In the first article, the Republicans with the House Homeland Security Committee state that Mayorkas “has repeatedly violated laws enacted by Congress regarding immigration and border security…His refusal to obey the law is not only an offense against the separation of powers in the Constitution of the United States, it also threatens our national security and has had a dire impact on communities across the country.”

Republicans accused Mayorkas in the second impeachment article of “knowingly making false statements to Congress and the American people and avoiding lawful oversight to obscure the devastating consequences of his willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law and carry out his statutory duties.” And although the feckless Senate may not have the votes to make the impeachment stick, it will expose those Republicans who truly are open borders advocates from those who believe in the Constitution and the rule of law. It would require a two-thirds majority to convict and remove Mayorkas from office.

If there was ever a reason for impeachment, Mayorkas fits the bill. His impeachment will send a clear message to the Biden Administration and Senators on both sides of the aisle that gig is up and that our nation’s security must be the priority.

Mayorkas ushered in the administration’s expansive use of  “prosecutorial discretion”  that allowed our borders to become an open gateway for our adversaries, drug cartels, terrorists and people from all over the world, stated Joel Maldonado, a recently retired Border Patrol Supervisor, who spoke for the first time about the memo to me on, The Sara Carter Show podcast Sunday.

“When we are not upholding the law but being forced to commit treason it puts everyone at risk, it’s demoralizing and they are lying to the American people,” said Maldonado, who published his first book on his 28 years with the Border Patrol, A Binding Oath: A Border Patrol Journey and the Mayorkas Effect. 

Maldonado, who retired in March 2023, had never seen the Mayorkas memo until this year. He said it coincided with the policy his station in Texas had to abide by and a dangerous policy “that continues to this day.”

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Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“The memo itself is a smoking gun, it’s proof that the administration usurped the law with this prosecutorial discretion policy, along with so much more,’ he said. He described how he and other supervisors would put agents out on the border to conduct enforcement instead of using them all for processing illegal aliens into the country when directed to do so by DHS. He said “We would do this out of sight of Washington D.C. and DHS but then be scolded later if we increased our apprehensions. They wanted us to process and they didn’t care how many more people came in or what the consequences would be.”

The seven-page memo was emailed from Mayorkas to Director Tae Johnson, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Acting Commissioner Troy Miller, U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Director Ur Jaddou, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; Robert Silvers, Under Secretary of Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans; Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez, Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and Lynne Parker Dupree, Chief Privacy Officer with the Privacy Office.

Many areas of the memo are striking but one that stood out was the list of reasons and excuses that Mayorkas gives can be used when attempting to not deport illegal aliens that clearly present a danger to the nation or have violated U.S. law.

This memo “brings to the forefront the official policy of Alejandro Mayorkas to open wide our southern border,” Biggs stated, adding that he believes Congress has the votes to impeach the DHS Secretary.

One of the most stunning parts of the memo refers to the ‘threat to public safety.’  Mayorkas said those threats possibly posed by illegal aliens are ‘not to be determined according to bright lines or categories. Instead, it requires an assessment of the individual and the totality of the facts and circumstances.’

He lists reasons for enforcement action, such as, “sophistication of criminal offense, use or threatened use of a firearm or dangerous weapon, serious prior criminal record” but then follows with mitigating reasons as to what could constitute a reason not to deport them.

He states,  “There can be mitigating factors that militate in favor of declining enforcement action: 

  • advance or tender age
  • lengthy presence in the United States
  • a mental condition that may have contributed to the criminal conduct, or a physical or mental condition requiring care or treatment
  • Status as a victim of crime or victim, witness, or legal party in legal proceedings,
  • the impact of removal on family in the United States, such as loss of a provider or caregiver,
  • whether the noncitizen may be eligible for humanitarian protection or other immigration relief
  • military or other public service of the noncitizen or their immediate family;
  • time since an offense and evidence of rehabilitation;
  • conviction was vacated or expunged

Maldonado said the list of excuses to allow illegal criminals to stay “is basically a strict warning to supervisors” in Border Patrol, ICE and other agencies that deportation was no longer a priority. The priority was ensuring that those who came in illegally stayed in the country, regardless of status, asylum claims or failure to properly vet them for national security threats.

What’s more disturbing in the Mayorkas border manifesto – is not just how he ties the hands of federal agents and risks the national security of our nation – but how he exonerates himself and the Biden Administration from any possible repercussions due to a dangerous open border policy.

“The civil immigration enforcement does not compel an action to be taken or not taken. Instead, the guidance leaves the exercise of prosecutorial discretion to the judgment of our personnel,” Mayorkas states.

Maldonado, and numerous other retired and current Border Patrol supervisors and agents, told me this guidance gives the federal officials – including Mayorkas – cover,  by putting the onus on the federal law enforcement officers who are forced to process people into the nation, and not the administration’s policy.

One current ICE supervisor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, summed it up by saying, “It means if anything goes wrong – if there’s a terror attack or something of that magnitude because of what Mayorkas has done – it will be the poor BP agent or ICE officer that will be blamed…Even though we have been the ones forced to let in the criminals and terrorists because of Mayorkas’ policy.”

If that isn’t a reason to impeach Mayorkas, I don’t know what is.

Follow Sara A. Carter on X at @SaraCarterDC 

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