The Senate Judiciary Committee hears testimony from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz and FBI Director Christopher Wray about the inspector general's scathing report on the FBI's mishandling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation in 2016.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: Michael Horowitz, inspector general for the Justice Department, was confirmed April 2012 and oversees a nationwide workforce of more than 400 employees. Immediately preceding this post, he was in private practice and also previously worked for the Justice Department's Criminal Division.
The inspector general's mission is to detect and deter waste, fraud, abuse and misconduct. Its mission is to also promote economy and efficiency in the department's operation.
Christopher Wray is the director of the FBI, confirmed August last year. He is in charge of the bureau's day-to-day operations as well as overseeing the performance of field offices and special branches nationwide.
From 2003 to 2005, Mr. Wray served as assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division at DOJ. Mr. Wray also served as associate deputy general, and then principle associate deputy attorney general, prior to his promotion in 2003. And I know, as well, that he was in private practice for a while before he became FBI director.
If you would stand, I would like to administer an oath. Do you affirm that the testimony you are about to give before the committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
WRAY: I do.
HOROWITZ: I do.
GRASSLEY: Thank you both for that affirmation. We'll start with General Horowitz. HOROWITZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Feinstein, members of the committee. Thank you for inviting me to testify today. Our 500 plus page report provides a thorough, comprehensive and objective recitation of the facts related to the departments and the FBI's handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation.
It was the product of 17 months of investigative work by a dedicated OIG team that reviewed well over 1.2 million documents and interviewed more than 100 witnesses, many on multiple occasions.
The review team followed the evidence wherever it lead, and through their efforts we identified the inappropriate text and instant messages discussed in the report. Additionally, the OIG's painstaking forensic examinations recovered thousands of text messages that otherwise would have been lost or undisclosed.
As detailed in our report, we found that the inappropriate political messages we uncovered cast a cloud over the midyear investigation, so doubt about the credibility of the FBI's handling of it, and impacted the reputation of the FBI.
We found the implication that senior FBI employees would be willing to take official action to impact the presidential candidates electoral prospects to be deeply troubling and antithetical to the core values of the FBI and the Justice Department.
With regard to the decision to close the investigation without prosecution, we found no evidence that the conclusions by the prosecutors were the result of improper considerations, including political bias, but rather were exercises of prosecutorial discretion by the prosecutors based on their assessment of the facts of the law and past department practice.
Our review also included a fact-based detailed assessment of certain specific investigative and prosecutorial decisions that were the subject of controversy. It was necessary to select particular investigative decisions because it would not have been possible to recreate and analyze every decision made in a year long investigation.
In examining these decisions, the question we considered was not whether a particular decision was the most effective choice, but rather whether the documentary and testimonial evidence indicated the decision was based on improper considerations, including political bias.
This approach is consistent with the OIG's handling of such questions in past reviews when assessing discretionary judgment calls and recognizes and respects the institutional oversight role of the OIG.
Our report provides a comprehensive assessment of these decisions and of the midyear investigation and details the factual evidence so that the public, Congress, and other stakeholders could conduct their own assessment of them.
Within this framework as to the specific investigative and prosecutive (ph) decisions we reviewed, we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly effected those specific decisions in part because the decisions were make by the larger, midyear team or the prosecutors.
This determination by the OIG, as I noted, does not mean that we necessarily endorse the decisions or conclude they were the most effective options among those considered or that our finding should or can be extrapolated to cover other decisions made during the course of the investigation by the FBI employees who sent these inappropriate text messages.
With - I'm sorry. Conversely, we found the FBI's explanations for its failures to take immediate action after discovering the Weiner laptop in October 2016 to be unpersuasive, and we did not have confidence that the decision of Deputy Assistant Direct Strzok to prioritize the Russia investigation over following up on the Weiner laptop was free from bias in light of his text messages.
We also found that in key moments then FBI Director Comey clearly departed from FBI and department norms, and his decisions negatively impacted the perception of the FBI and the Justice Department as fair administrators of justice.
Director Comey concealed from the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General. His intention to make a unilateral announcement in July 2016 about the reasons for his recommendation not to prosecute former Secretary Clinton.
His July 5th statement included inappropriate commentary about uncharged conduct, announced his views on what a, quote, unquote, "reasonable prosecutor" would do, and served to confuse rather than clarify public understanding of his recommendation.
In late October, he again acted without adequately consulting department leadership in contrary to important department norms when he sent a letter to Congress announcing renewed investigative activity days before the election.
There are many lessons to be learned from the department's and the FBI's handling of the midyear investigation. But among the most important is the need to respect the institutions' hierarchies and structures and to follow established policies, procedures and norms even in the highest profile and most challenging investigations.
No rule, policy, or practice is perfect, of course, but at the same time neither is any individual's ability to make judgments under pressure or in what may seem like unique circumstances.
When leaders and officials adhere to bedrock principles and values, the public has greater confidence in the fairness and rightness of their decisions, and those institutions' leaders better protect the interests of federal law enforcement and the dedicated professionals who serve us all.
By contrast, the public's trust is negatively impacted when law enforcement officials make statements reflecting bias, when leaders abandon institutional norms in the organizational hierarchy in favor of their own ad hoc judgments, and when the leadership of the department and the FBI are unable to speak directly with one another for the good of the institutions.
Our report makes nine recommendations, most of which can be tied together through a common theme, that the FBI and the Justice Department remain true to their foundational principles and values in all their work.
That concludes my prepared statement. I'd be pleased to answer the Committees questions.
GRASSLEY: Mr. Wray.
WRAY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, ranking member Feinstein, members of the Committee. I appreciate this opportunity to discuss the FBI's response to the report by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General about the DOJ and FBI's activities in the run up to the 2016 election.
I take this report very seriously, and we accept its findings and its recommendations. We're already addressing these recommendations in a number of ways and are determined to emerge from this experience better and wiser.
Our mission at the FBI is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution, and to carry out that mission, we're entrusted with significant authority, so our actions are subject to closed oversight by the Congress, by the courts, and by independent entities like the Inspector General. That oversight, in my view, makes the FBI stronger as an organization and makes the public more safe. And so, I appreciate the Inspector General's work in conducting this important review.
Although the report did not find any evidence of political bias or improper consideration ultimately impacting the investigation under review, the report did identify errors of judgment, violations of or disregard for policy and decisions that at least it the benefit of hindsight were certainly not the best choices.
So, I'd like to briefly summarize what we're doing to respond to those findings and recommendations. First we are going to hold accountable any employee for potential misconduct. We have already referred conduct highlighted in the report to our Office of Professional Responsibility, OPR, which is the FBI's independent disciplinary office.
We are going to adhere to the disciplinary process that that office has fairly but without delay and once that process -- once all the steps in the process are complete we will not hesitate to hold people accountable.
Second we're going to make sure that every FBI employee understands the lessons of this report through in-depth focused training starting first at the top with all of our senior executives from around the world and then every FBI employee to make sure that we do not repeat the mistakes identified in this report.
Third we're going to make sure that we have the policies, the procedures and the training needed for everyone to understand and remember what is expected of all of us.
That includes things like drilling home the importance of objectivity and avoiding even the appearance of potential bias or conflicts of interest in our work, ensuring the recusal's are handled appropriately and correctly and are clearly communicated to the right people, making all employees fully aware of our new policy on contacts with the new meet -- news media which I issued last November and making clear that we will not tolerate noncompliance with that policy, ensuring that we follow all DOJ policies about public statements on ongoing investigations and uncharged conduct and ensuring that our employees adhere strictly to the policies and procedures we have on the use of FBI systems, networks and devices.
I've also directed our associate deputy director who is the number three official in the organization to lead a very focused review of how the FBI handles particularly sensitive investigations, how the structured, staffed, supervised so that every sensitive investigation can be conducted to the FBI's highest standards.
The OIG's report makes clear that we have significant work to do and as I said we're going to learn from the report and be better as a result. At the same time I want to emphasize that this report is focused on a specific set of events back in 2016, and a small number of FBI employees connected with those events.
Mistakes made by those employees do not define our 37,000 men and women, and the great work they do every day. Nothing in this report impugns the integrity of our workforce as a whole, or the FBI's institution. I want to be very clear with this committee about the FBI that I have been able to see up close every day in the 10 months since my confirmation hearing before you all.
I have been meeting with employees from over 30 of our field offices from Legat Offices overseas from every headquarters division and over and over and over again I hear incredible stories, remarkable inspiring stories about the work our men and women are doing to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution.
This year alone, we have rescued over 1,300 children from child predators. We have arrested more than 4,600 violent gang members in just the past several months. In the past several months we've disrupted terrorist attacks ranging from the pier in San Francisco to a crowded shopping mall Miami.
I could go on and on but the point is that the FBI's men and women as a whole are doing all this work with the unfailing fidelity to our Constitution and laws that it demands, the bravery that it deserves and the integrity that the American people rightly expect. As I have been trying to say since my confirmation hearing at every opportunity, I am committed to doing this job by the book and I expect all our employees to do the same in every respect.
I am a huge believer in the importance of process and I believe strongly that the FBI's brand over 110 years is based more on the way we have accomplished our successes than our successes themselves. That means following are rules, following our laws, following are guidelines.
We've you got to stay faithful to our core values and best traditions and there will inevitably be times when we feel extraordinary pressure to not follow our process and policies but those are precisely the times when it is most important to adhere to them.
We're trying to make sure they we're not just doing the right thing but the we're doing it in the right way and pursuing the facts independently and objectively no matter who likes it. That in my view, is the best way that and my view is the only way to maintain the trust and credibility of the American people we serve.
So, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Feinstein, members of the committee, thank you again for the opportunity to address the report and look forward to answering the committees questions.
GRASSLEY: Thank you. And, I believe the staff has probably informed each member of the committee that we'll have eight minute rounds. And because of three votes on the floor of the United States Senate at 5:30 we'll probably only end up having one round.
First to Mr. Horowitz. The I.T. worker who managed the Clinton server lied to the FBI repeatedly. He denied deleting the Clinton e-mails. He denied that Clinton staff had ever asked him to delete the e-mails. He denied knowing the e-mails were under a preservation order.
On March 2015 he had a call with Clinton's lawyers. Right after that he used BleachBit to delete the Clinton e-mails. He invoked the 5th Amendment to avoid questions about that call, even sent an e-mail saying that he was part of quote, "Hillary cover-up operation".
He later claimed that that was only a joke but there was no search warrant or subpoena for the laptops used by the Clinton lawyers to see what they know about what he did. He did not get the Mueller treatment. No charges for lying to the FBI repeatedly. No pressure to flip and testify against Clinton lawyers.
Quite the opposite. He got immunity. This is a good example of a double standard in these two investigations and why more and more people are starting to believe the Mueller investigation lacks fairness. The report noted that Director Comey pressured the team to close the case before the party convention and he had already made up his mind to close it before all the work was done.
Question number one, is it an improper to set a deadline to close a case based upon political calendar?
HOROWITZ: Mr. Chairman, I think if that is the only basis for setting the deadline that would be an area of concern and that was something we did ask about in connection with our report given the various areas where Director Comey raised the concern about the political calendar. We had some information from some folks, indicating that he separately suggested that in addition to concern about the political calendar, that they also should follow up as need be for their work. So that -- that was the evidence we had before us.
GRASSLEY: Is it a fair inference, General Horowitz, for people to think that the time pressure and the predetermined decision not to charge Clinton explained the lack of interest in trying to charge and flip the witness?
HOROWITZ: It certainly, as we've laid out here, one of the reasons given by the prosecutors with regard to certain of their decisions; that they felt it would have dragged on the investigation for too long, and that that was, in fact, a factor in their consideration on how to resolve certain issues.
GRASSLEY: Second point would involve you and the director of FBI. The report notes that department prosecutors did not believe there was a substantial federal interest to charge the I.T. worker who deleted Clinton's emails with obstruction and false statements. However, it was clear that he lied to the FBI twice about deleting Clinton's archived emails. The emails had been subpoenaed, and were subject to Congressional preservation notice. The technician knew that when he deleted them. Question number one to both of you: Is granting immunity the only way to obtain truthful testimony from a witness, and isn't there a substantial federal interest in determining obstruction of congressional investigations?
HOROWITZ: It -- it isn't the only way to get testimony from individuals, or information from individuals. It obviously depends on the facts, and also, as we laid out in the report, we found the conduct to be particularly serious.
GRASSLEY: Director Wray?
WRAY: Likewise, I think there are number of ways to secure truthful testimony from witnesses, not just one. And certainly, my own view is that efforts to obstruct investigations are something we need to take extremely seriously at the federal level.
GRASSLEY: OK, thank you.
To the -- Mr. Horowitz, did the official specifically tell you that obstructing Congress was not a matter of substantial federal interest?
HOROWITZ: They didn't specifically say that to us. We asked them for their reasons, and they explained various other reasons that we lay out in the report.
Former Director Comey said on television that the Inspector General interviewed him about the handling of his memos of conversations with President Trump. Some of those memos contain classified information. Comey said he did not expect a report on his handling of classified information because, quote-unquote, "That's frivolous." I don't happen to think that it is frivolous.
Question number one to Mr. Horowitz: Are you investigating Comey's handling of his memos, and does that include the classification issues? And should Mr. Comey expect a report when it is complete?
HOROWITZ: We received a referral on that from the FBI. We are handling that referral, and we will issue a report when the matter's complete, consistent with the law and rules that...
HOROWITZ: ... that are -- and a report that's consistent and takes those into account.
GRASSLEY: OK. In the F -- in the FBI's response to the Inspector General's report, the FBI said, quote, "There is no indication that any classified material ever transited former Director Comey's, Ms. Page's or Mr. Strzok's personal devices or accounts." But I thought neither the Inspector General nor the FBI actually looked at their personal devices. I sent a letter to you, Director Wray, this morning on this topic, but I wanted to ask you, how can the FBI conclude no classified material was on their personal devices if you didn't even look at their devices?
WRAY: Mr. Chairman, first, as to your letter, I -- I haven't, obviously, seen your letter of today, but I'm happy to take a look at it and make sure we're being responsive to you on that.
On the second part of your question, and the -- the words in our response to the Inspector General's report, I don't think we're attempting to characterize some independent investigation of our own, but rather, to refer to the language in the Inspector General's report, and to clarify that the findings that we're reacting to did not themselves identify any passage of classified information.
GRASSLEY: OK. During the course of the review, you found that several of the people investigating Secretary Clinton for using personal email were doing the same thing themselves. Each agency and every employee has an obligation to comply with the Federal Records Act.
Question number one to Mr. Horowitz: In light of the law's record -- the law's recordkeeping requirements, how did you try to get access to their personal devices or accounts?
HOROWITZ: One of the challenges we had, as we note in the report, is that to gain access to personal emails would have required either a Grand Jury subpoena or a search warrant, given the facts of this case. And so we were limited, because our administrative subpoena authority doesn't cover this, to ask for voluntary cooperation. We were given oral representations. We were not given access to the email accounts.
President Trump claims the report "totally exonerates" him of Trump-Russia collusion, but the report is actually about the Clinton email investigation. The 600-page report was released Thursday.