White House slams FBI chief Wray over voter fraud testimony

WASHINGTON, Sept 25 (Reuters) - White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Friday denigrated FBI Director Christopher Wray's ability to detect voter fraud in the U.S. election and suggested that if he "drill down" more he would change his congressional testimony on the issue.

Wray told lawmakers on Thursday he has not seen evidence of a coordinated national voter fraud effort, undercutting President Donald Trump's unfounded assault on mail-in balloting as a threat to election security.

"With all due respect to Director Wray, he has a hard time finding emails in his own FBI, let alone figuring out whether there's any kind of voter fraud," Meadows said on CBS "This Morning." It was not clear what missing emails he was referring to.

A top federal prosecutor in the battleground state of Pennsylvania on Thursday said his office and the FBI was investigating whether nine military ballots cast for Trump had been handled improperly.

Earlier in the day, Wray told the Senate Homeland Security Committee that, "We have not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it’s by mail or otherwise. We have seen voter fraud at the local level from time to time."

Meadows suggested on CBS that Wray "drill down on the investigation that just started ... Perhaps he needs to get involved on the ground and then he would change his testimony on Capitol Hill."

The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Meadows' remarks.

Trump appointed Wray as FBI director after he fired James Comey in 2017 during a federal probe into ties between the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and Russia.

Earlier this month, Wray testified before a House of Representatives committee that his biggest concern in the 2020 election was the "steady drumbeat of misinformation" coming from Russian interference.

Both statements run contrary to the Republican president's stances as he seeks re-election on Nov. 3 in the race against Democrat Joe Biden. Trump continues to downplay the threat from Moscow and argues that mail-in voting, which many states are relying on during the coronavirus pandemic, poses a threat to election security.

Asked if Trump had confidence in Wray, Meadows told reporters on Friday he has not spoken to the president about it.

Trump himself has repeatedly and without evidence questioned the increased use of mail-in ballots, a long established method of voting in the United States.

The Republican president has long bristled at that U.S. intelligence agencies' finding that Russia acted to boost now-Trump's 2016 campaign and undermine his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Trump repeatedly referenced Clinton's "missing emails" during that campaign, mockingly asking Russia to help find them. A State Department investigation of Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state has found no evidence of deliberate mishandling of classified information.

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