FBI Director Christopher A. Wray has come under fire in the past few months for a multitude of allegations against the self-proclaimed “premier law enforcement agency” under the Department of Justice.
Perhaps the most boring allegation is that Director Wray is personally liable for misuse of the FBI's $60 million Gulfstream 550 jet – an allegation the FBI's press office has denied. A story published by The Daily Wire's Brandon Drey seemed to substantiate allegations made by federal whistleblowers to the House Judiciary Committee that Director Wray abused his access to the FBI's G550. Despite the flat denial of these charges by the FBI's National Press Office, new evidence suggests otherwise.
(FlightAware.com Accessed February 20, 2023)
In a pattern break from the last several years, the FBI G550, tail number N708JH, departed for Wray's usual Fulton County weekend trip from Manassas Regional without the extra stop at Reagan National. The whistleblowers alleged Wray typically summoned the jet to Reagan to avoid traffic. These whistleblowers came from members of Wray's own staff in positions to know details about his travel to include the tail number and pattern of behavior. The term FBI whistleblower (5 USC 2303(A)(2)) is explicitly defined under US law and includes making an allegation the whistleblower “reasonably believes evidences” a violation of rule, policy, or law by a federal official, OR “gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.”
The allegation above cited Wray's potentially illegal habit of having the FBI jet fly to an airport 40 miles closer to him at significant expense to the U.S. taxpayer simply for his convenience. Those familiar with the Washington DC and Northern Virginia area will know that I-66 traffic out of DC can be tedious and take upwards of 60 minutes in commute hour traffic from downtown. Reagan National is a far more convenient 4 mile drive from the J. Edgar Hoover building than Manassas. The shorter drive can take less than 10 minutes even during rush hour traffic with the aid of emergency lights and a motorcade.
Despite the high opinion of himself, it is unlikely that the FBI Director can justify expenses of $2,500 runway fees for each time the jet lands at Reagan, the drastically higher fuel consumption of take-off and landing for the 40 mile flight, and the added wear and depreciation on this government asset simply to avoid an hour in traffic. Regardless of what Director Wray might bill as a private sector attorney, his government salary is a far cry from the reported $9.2M salary he left to take the job. FBI Director Comey reportedly earned $172,000 in the year before Wray took the job. There is no possible argument that an hour of his time in the back seat of a three-suburban motorcade is worth several thousand dollars to be paid by the American tax payers. The Daily Wire piece documented this flight over 125 times in just the past 3 years. Chris Wray has been the FBI Director for over 5. On the low end, one can estimate over $600,000 in wasteful spending in just the time covered. This cost could easily be twice as high with an exhaustive accounting like a private company would require.
At the time Drey's article was published, the FBI's National Press Office stated: “The FBI is not going to comment on specific plane locations because of operational and security sensitivities. The FBI Director's use of FBI aircraft is long-established and continues due to the mission needs of the FBI and the FBI Director's security requirements.” Yet, use of the FBI aircraft by Directors is not without controversy. Indeed, Director James Comey faced questions about his regular use of the FBI's private jets for personal travel and Director William Sessions was ultimately removed before the 6 year mark in his 10 year appointment over abuse of the FBI's jets. Indeed, the authorization for the purchase of the luxury jet was not for the personal and professional travel of the FBI Director and security detail, but for counterterrorism (CT) cases. The Director exercises priority over the actual operations teams assigned to CT evidence collection and investigative teams, but that was not the reason Congress authorized this asset. Instead of taking priority, the CT teams and evidence collection response from FBI HQ use it “when it is available” to transport sensitive source, witnesses, and evidence. However, that is contingent on the FBI Director's travel plans, sources who participate in this CT cases have shared.
The Daily Wire was not the first to note some questionable utilization of this multi-million dollar tool. New York Post writer Miranda Devine noted questionable aircraft use in an October 16, 2022 piece about Director Wray's regular flights to Fulton County, Georgia where Wray maintains his primary residence. This might seems scandalous to any member of the military or federal service with a mobility agreement. The FBI Director appointment comes with a 10 year term. The job is a Washington, DC assignment without a potential to move to another part of the country. Yet, halfway into his term, Director Chris Wray never actually relocated his family into the area he accepted a job for a decade. Contrasted with new FBI Special Agents who uproot their whole lives in order to take positions at one of the 56 field offices around the country, it would be easy to question the commitment of the top federal official at the FBI.
The newly authorized Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government needs to take special care not to dismiss boring and procedural violations of rule, policy, or law like misuse of government resources nor the protections supposedly afforded to whistleblowers under federal law. Although these types of allegations do not bring the splashy headlines like illicit investigations into First Amendment protected arenas or 40,000 hours of January 6 video footage, this type of technical and provable malfeasance have been the blueprint for taking down corporate and government executives for decades. When “produce the receipts” is the mantra of those attempting to discredit allegations against the Left's new pit bull, it is helpful to have actual receipts for fuel, runaway fees, and scheduled maintenance in hand.
Despite FBI Denials, Recent Pattern Changes Tell Different Story on Director Wray's Jet Usage at Your Expense
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