Full Replay: Rosenstein, Chris Wray Grilled On DOJ/FBI Report On Handling Of 2016 Election At Congressional Hearing


Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray testify before House Judiciary about the recently released report on DOJ/FBI handling of 2016 election investigations.

Opening statements:

ROSENSTEIN: Well, thank you, Chairman Goodlatte, Ranking Member Nadler and members of the committee. I always welcome the opportunity to appear before this distinguished body. But today is not a happy occasion.

Based on my 30 years of experience in federal law enforcement, working with the outstanding men and women of law enforcement, federal, state and local, in many of your districts, there's nobody who would be more committed to rooting out abuse and misconduct when there's credible evidence that it occurred.

The inspector general conducted a thorough investigation and found that some Federal Bureau of Investigation employees deviated from important principles in 2016 and 2017.

Everyone knew about some of those departures when they occurred, such as discussing criminal investigations and encroaching on prosecutorial decisions. We learned about others through the internal investigation, such as leaking to the news media and exhibiting political bias.

We need to correct errors, hold wrongdoers accountable and deter future violations. Director Wray will describe what the FBI is doing to accomplish those goals.

At the Department of Justice, our mandatory annual training will include lessons from the inspector general's report, and we are considering other recommendations.

We already revised the department's confidentiality policies to emphasize that nonpublic, sensitive information obtained in connection with our work is protected from disclosure.

We intend to enforce that principle on our employees and we need to demonstrate respect for it ourselves by protecting sensitive information entrusted to the FBI.

A (ph) congressional oversight is vital to democracy. My June 27th letter, which I will submit for your consideration, explains how the executive branch handles congressional oversight requests for law enforcement and intelligence information.

The FBI is managing an extraordinary volume of congressional oversight requests, some of which seek details about criminal investigations and intelligence sources.

As a result of President Trump's commitment to transparency, the FBI is making unprecedented disclosures to the Congress, including granting access to hundreds of thousands of pages of investigative information and thousands of pages of classified documents.

As with most things in Washington, the real work is not done on television, and it's not all done by me. Trump administration officials are meeting and talking with your staff every day.

They're working overtime with teams of FBI employees to accommodate requests and produce relevant information to this committee, other House committees and several Senate committees.

This committee requested the production of all documents relevant to the inspector general's review. As you well know, the FBI normally declines such requests. Because of the circumstances of this case and concerns that we developed during the investigation, the Department agreed to produce all relevant FBI documents. ROSENSTEIN: I understand that the universe of potentially relevant documents was in the range of 1.2 million, although only a fraction are actually relevant.

We began the production even before the inspector general finished his report, after we confirmed that the investigation was substantially complete and production at that time would not interfere with it.

As you know, the FBI struggled for some time with the scope and volume of the production. Some of your colleagues brought to my attention that the FBI's redaction policies created the appearance that relevant information was being concealed.

I looked into the issue, and I understood their concern. As a result, I called on U.S. Attorney John Lausch from Chicago to take charge of the project. Mr. Lausch is here with me today, and I know he's talked with some of you in recent days. He's been working on this project for some time.

Mr. Lausch brings experience in handling large document productions in the private sector. He worked with committee members and staff and arranged a production process that seems to be working very well.

I understand that some people still state concerns about the speed of the production. But those concerns are mistaken. Most requests have been fulfilled, and other document productions are in progress for this committee and other committees.

I have devoted almost 30 years to the service of my country. In my line of work, we keep an open mind; we complete our investigations before we allege wrongdoing by anybody. Our allegations are made under oath and supported by credible evidence. We treat everyone with respect and deal with one another in good faith.

You and I are the beneficiaries and the temporary trustees of a remarkable experiment in self-government. Like each member of Congress, the deputy attorney general, the FBI director and other department officials represent the people of the United States.

President Trump appointed us, the Senate confirmed our nominations and we swore an oath when (ph) we accepted responsibility for helping to run the Department of Justice. That oath requires us to make controversial decisions.

So here's the advice that I give Department of Justice employees: Faithfully pursue the department's law enforcement mission and the administration's goals in a manner consistent with laws, regulations, policies and principles.

Be prepared to face criticism. That's part of the job. But ignore the tyranny of the news cycle, stick to the rule of law and make honest decisions that will always withstand fair and objective review.

Our department's 115,000 employees work diligently every day to keep America safe. Most of their good work is never the subject of any congressional hearing.

It is a tremendous privilege to work in an organization that seeks the truth and serves the law. But the Department of Justice is not perfect. We will keep working to make it better. We welcome your constructive assistance.

Thank you.

GOODLATTE: Thank you, Deputy Attorney General.

Director Wray, welcome.

WRAY: Thank you.

GOODLATTE: And I (ph) want to thank you both for getting here. I know you've come a long way to get here and under difficult circumstances, with a -- with an injury.

WRAY: Thank you.

Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee. I appreciate this opportunity to discuss the FBI's response to the inspector general's report on DOJ and FBI activities in the run-up to the 2016 election.

We take that report very seriously, and we accept its findings and its recommendations. We are already doing a whole number of things to address those recommendations, and we are determined to emerge from this experience better and wiser.

The FBI is entrusted with a lot of authority, and our actions are appropriately, therefore, subject to close oversight. That oversight can make the FBI stronger and the public safer. Part of that oversight includes fulsome responses to legitimate oversight requests for documents and information.

For months, we've been working with your committees to make witnesses available, answer questions and produce or make available to you and your staff over, now, 880,000 pages.

Although we have now substantially complied with the majority of the committee's subpoena, we are determined to get through the outstanding items, and we have increased staffing on this project even further.

In just the past week, for example, we've had approximately 100 employees working day and night, dedicated to this project, through the weekend to collect, review, process and produce thousands of additional pages.

Turning to the I.G.'s report, although the I.G. report did not find any evidence of political bias or improper consideration actually impacting the investigation under review, that report did identify errors of judgment, violations of or disregard for policy, and decisions that certainly, in the benefit of hindsight, were not the best choices. So I'd like to briefly summarize the steps we're taking to address the report's recommendations.

First, we're going to be holding employees accountable for misconduct. We have already referred conduct highlighted in the report to the Office of Professional Responsibility, which is the FBI's independent disciplinary arm. And, once the necessary process is complete, we will not hesitate to hold people strictly accountable.

Second, we're making sure that every employee understands the lessons of the I.G.'s report through in-depth training, starting at the top, starting with the executives, so we don't repeat mistakes identified in that report.

Third, we're making 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 drilling home the importance of objectivity and of avoiding even the appearance of personal conflicts or political bias; ensuring that recusals are handled correctly; making all employees aware of our new media policy, which I issued last November, and making clear that we will not tolerate noncompliance with that policy; ensuring that we follow DOJ policies about public statements on ongoing investigations and uncharged conduct; and ensuring that we adhere strictly to all policies and procedures on the use of FBI systems, networks and devices.

I've also directed our new associate deputy director, the number three official in the FBI, to lead a review of how we staff, structure and supervise sensitive investigations so that we can make sure that each one is conducted to our highest standards.

The I.G. report makes clear that we've got important work to do. But I do want to emphasize that this report is focused on a specific set of events in 2016 and a small number of employees connected with those events.

Nothing in this report impugns the integrity of our workforce as a whole or the FBI as an institution. I want to be very clear with this committee about the FBI that I've gotten to see, up close and personal, in the 10 months since I've taken on this job.

As I meet with our offices all over the world, offices represented by every one of the members up here on the dais, I encounter really remarkable, inspiring stories about the work our 37,000 men and women are doing every single day. WRAY: We've rescued more than 1,300 kids from child predators this year alone. We've arrested more than 4,600 violent gang members in just the past few months. We've disrupted, recently, terrorist plots ranging from places like Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, to a crowded shopping mall in Miami. And I could go on and on.

Our men and women are doing all of that great work and much, much more with the unfailing fidelity to our Constitution and the laws that it demands, the bravery that it deserves and the integrity that the American people rightly expect.

That means we're going to do this job by the book. I am committed to doing that. I would not be here if I wasn't committed to making sure we do it that way, and I expect all our employees to do the same. That means following our rules, following our policies, following our longstanding norms.

There will be times when we feel extraordinary pressure not to follow our process and policies, but, in my view, those are precisely the times that we need to adhere to them the most.

We've got to stay faithful to our best traditions and our core values, making sure that we're not only doing the right thing, but doing it in the right way and pursuing the facts independently and objectively, no matter who likes it. That, in my view, is the only way we can maintain the trust and credibility of the people we serve.

So, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you again for the opportunity to address the inspector general's report. And I look forward to answering the committee's questions.

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