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FBI director set for combative hearing on mob attack

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday will make his first appearance before lawmakers since the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol as Democrats increasingly probe the bureau's actions leading up to the riot.

Senate Democrats have asked for the FBI to turn over a number of documents and plans, gearing up for the tough oversight effort of a director whose tenure was often viewed as in jeopardy under the Trump administration.

Though President BidenJoe BidenFour members of Sikh community among victims in Indianapolis shooting Overnight Health: NIH reverses Trump's ban on fetal tissue research | Biden investing .7B to fight virus variants | CDC panel to meet again Friday on J&J On The Money: Moderates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats | Justice Dept. sues Trump ally Roger Stone for unpaid taxes MORE chose to keep Wray on for his full 10-year term as FBI director after the attack, Wray will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee as its Democratic members are increasingly putting pressure on the FBI not just to up the ante on fighting domestic terrorism, but to single out the ideologies that provide the greatest risk.

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“The tragic events of January 6 put on full display that violent white supremacists pose the most significant domestic terrorism threat to our nation. For too long, the federal government has turned a blind eye to this evil in our own backyard. This must change,” committee Chairman Dick DurbinDick DurbinBiden angers Democrats by keeping Trump-era refugee cap Chicago Police Union head calls Adam Toledo shooting 'justified,' says 'officer's actions actually heroic' Progressives put Democrats on defense MORE (D-Ill.) said after a recent call with Wray ahead of the hearing. “Unfortunately, the FBI appears to have taken steps in recent years that minimize the threat of white supremacist and far-right violence.”

Wray’s appearance also comes amid scrutiny into both the intelligence that the bureau had ahead of the attacks and how they communicated it.

A Jan. 5 report from the FBI field office in Norfolk, Va., detailed specific calls for violence on Jan. 6, including those that suggested protesters go to the Capitol “ready for war.” But Capitol Police said the report shared late that night never made it beyond a few officers.

That’s likely to be the source of a number of questions for Wray — as is the agency’s response to 17 questions sent by Judiciary and other committees that asked the FBI and 21 other agencies to turn over nearly everything documenting their actions leading up to the mob attack.

“What protocols does your agency or department follow for a planned demonstration at the Capitol? Were any deviations made from those standard protocols?” lawmakers asked. “What intelligence about potential demonstrations or violence on January 6, 2021 was generated or received by your agency or department in advance of the Capitol attack?”

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With the number of sharply worded letters from lawmakers piling up, the FBI and the Department of Justice in general have taken a more proactive posture, holding a press conference Friday promising an “enhanced” response to domestic terrorism.

“Success is not the prosecution of a violent extremist or terrorist after the fact, when families have lost loved ones or are grieving, but that success is a disruption before violence occurs, and that always has to be the goal of our counterterrorism work,” acting Deputy Attorney General John Carlin said, promising a Jan. 6-style attack “will not happen again.”

The FBI told reporters Friday that it has charged 300 people in connection with the attack on the Capitol that day, with 280 arrested.

The last time Wray appeared before Congress he said racially motivated violent extremism cases account for the bulk of the bureau's work on domestic terrorist threats.

“Within the domestic terrorism bucket, the category as a whole, racially motivated violent extremism is, I think, the biggest bucket within that larger group. And within the racially motivated violent extremist bucket, people subscribing to some kind of white supremacist-type ideology is certainly the biggest chunk of that,” he said in September.

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Democrats want the FBI to dig deeper on those figures.

Under former President TrumpDonald TrumpFreedom Caucus member condemns GOP group pushing 'Anglo-Saxon political traditions' MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell's new free speech site to ban certain curse words Secret Facebook groups of special operations officers include racist comments, QAnon posts: report MORE, the FBI adopted a new approach to tracking domestic terrorism, replacing a category specific to white supremacist extremists with a catch-all category called “Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists.”

“This change obfuscates the threat posed by violent white supremacists by conflating them with so-called ‘Black identity extremists,’ a fabricated term criticized by law enforcement experts. While some of us have repeatedly asked you to justify this change, we have never received a satisfactory response,” the Senate Democrats wrote.

They also asked the bureau to provide a similar breakdown of the ideologies of anti-government extremists the FBI tracks, arguing under the Trump administration it “diverted resources to investigate left-wing movements at the expense of adequately addressing the threat of violence by white supremacists and other right-wing extremists.”