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Video of Senator Sasse's exchange with Director Wray can be found here, or by clicking the image above.

U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, a China hawk and member of the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, pressed Federal Bureau of Investigations Director Chris Wray on the threat from the Chinese Communist Party. Despite the fact that the CCP remains America’s top geopolitical threat, the subject was not a front-and-center priority in Director Wray’s prepared testimony, nor was it the subject of much of the Judiciary Committee’s questioning today. 

Excerpts below: 

Sasse: Director Wray, who is the most significant geopolitical foe the United States faces in the next decade?

Director Wray: That would be the People's Republic of China and specifically the Chinese Communist Party.



Sasse: You've been really clear about that [anti-CCP] work in the Intel Committee. I'm perplexed by your written testimony today. Because you name, I think, five priorities, and you could make the CCP a subset of cyber-attacks, you can make CCP a subset of a few other places. But the priority set here feels different than a lot of the priority set conversations we've had with you in private.


Full exchange below: 

Director Wray: That would be the People's Republic of China and specifically the Chinese Communist Party.

SBS: Thank you, sir. We get you more often in the Intel Committee or you and your team in the Intel Committee than we do here in Judiciary, and you've been very clear about that. Is it your view that the United States government has made massive improvement in thwarting economic espionage from the CCP in the last year or two?

Director Wray: I think we've, as a country, we've made significant strides in terms of the recognition of the problem. I find that when I deal with business leaders, for example, and even to some extent, university presidents or chancellors, the level of concern that they express, the level of awareness that they reflect about the threat is moving in the right direction in my view, but this is a problem of massive, massive scale. And to some extent, as a country, we're playing catch up on the threat.
And so, part of what I've got all our people doing is out there beating the bushes, interacting with the business community, the academic community. I interact with our foreign partners trying to kind of raise awareness of the threat. It's hard to think in some ways that something that significant, could fly that much under the radar for that many people, but I'm, I am hell bent on making sure that it doesn't stay that way. 

SBS: So, one of the ways that I think about the problem is the numerator is how much public awareness we're raising and how much better we're getting it hardening the targets that are targeted by the CCP to steal the economic assets of American innovation and taxpayers and firms. The numerator is the awareness but the denominator is the CCP’s efforts and the denominator continues to explode. And I've supported your work and complimented you and the work you've done to bring more of the Bureau's resources and mindshare to bear on this. You know that we have a complementary effort that has come from Chairman Warner, chiefly but before him, Chairman Burr, Vice Chairman Rubio myself a few of us on the Intel Committee that have tried to work on the same issue set with you. So, I'm perplexed because I've applauded your work there. You've been really clear about that work in the Intel Committee. I'm perplexed by your written testimony today. Because you name, I think, five priorities, and you could make the CCP a subset of cyber-attacks, you can make CCP a subset of a few other places. But the priority set here feels different than a lot of the priority set conversations we've had with you in private. Can you explain to us the history of Main Justice's view on the China Initiative?

Director Wray: Well, I guess on the China Initiative, I would largely defer to the department on its description of how it has changed the initiative. The original initiative was a Justice Department initiative. The changes to it were a Justice Department construct. I will tell you that I have been consistent both under the initiative and since with our workforce in my assessment of the threat and that we at the FBI are not taking our foot off the gas. Now we're going to do a right. We're going to follow the facts with proper predication, we are not going to be basing investigations on race, ethnicity, or national origin, and we haven't and if you go back and look at my statements publicly, whenever I'm giving speeches on this topic, I've been taking great pains for years, to make the point that this is not about the Chinese people. It's not about Chinese Americans. It's about the People's Republic of China and specifically the CCP. 

SBS: You and I are united, I want you to continue, but I just want to foot stop this because Chairman Warner and I and many others say the exact same thing. There are 1.4 billion people in China created in God's image and they're not our opponents. They're only 90 million members 7% of the country that are members of the Chinese Communist Party, and dictator tyrant Xi, who's running, you know, concentration camps in our time with forced organ harvesting, systemic rape of Uyghur women. There is genocide happening in our time, and that's because of a few really bad actors. Our opponents are not the Chinese people. But Chairman Xi and his thugs are our opponents, and we should be clear about it. And the distinction you've drawn, the distinction Mark Warner draws, the distinction I draw, isn't that hard to explain, and yet it feels like Main Justice has said they're killing the China Initiative because of some worries about some rhetorical challenges where you've said many times that China and the CCP are a long-term geopolitical threat. So please continue, but I agree with the point you're making, but nobody has been arguing the counter point.

Director Wray: Yeah, I think I mean, I think the way I understand the initiative and again, I would really refer you to the Department to better describe the initiative, or the changes to the initiative, but the way I understand it, it was an attempt to broaden the focus to make sure that we are also focusing on transnational repression and things like that from other nation states and not just on China, which of course, we have been doing but it makes that clear, but there's a second, 

SBS: But there's only one nation that could defeat the US.

Director Wray: Again, I have said, I've probably spoken more on this one topic than maybe any other topics since I've been FBI director. And I think I've been maybe almost painfully consistent all the way through it. 
One point that goes straight to the heart of what you're driving at that we're seeing a big push on right now that goes along with the economic espionage piece and the cyber piece is the same kind of transit, the same kind of repression that you're describing in China is an export, the People's Republic of China is engaging in and including right here in the United States.
And so we have tried to with the department's support, I should say to be more aggressive and calling out that conduct too, and to show how that conduct is designed to stalk harass, surveil or worse, dissidents, pro-democracy, voices, people like that here, right here in the United States, is designed to help facilitate in many ways, the economic espionage because the more they silence people, the easier it is to engage in this campaign of intellectual property theft. We had a case not that long ago, and I'm sometimes baffled that it hasn't gotten more attention in New York, where actors affiliated with the Ministry of State Security sought to derail a congressional candidate. 
First by trying to see if they could dig up dirt on the candidate, then to see if they could make up dirt on the candidate. And then to see if possibly they could figure out a way to have the candidate befall accident, you know, some form of essentially physical violence, all because this candidate had been a Tiananmen square protester and pro-democracy voice. Now it's one candidate, but this is happening here in the United States, it's not happening back there. They're doing it here. 

SBS: They’re getting executives fired in the NBA, and they get call center workers for Marriott in Omaha, Nebraska fired for saying stand with Hong Kong. So, I compliment and support your work and encourage you and the important patriotic Americans at the Bureau to keep focusing on that issue set. I know we're at time. So, thank you Director.