Remarks as prepared for delivery
Chairman Goodlatte, Ranking Member Nadler, and members of the Committee, I always welcome the opportunity to appear before this distinguished committee, but this is not a happy occasion.
Federal Bureau of Investigation employees deviated from important principles in 2016 and 2017. Everyone knew about some of the departures when they occurred – such as discussing criminal investigations and encroaching on prosecutorial decisions. We learned about others through an 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 “non-public, sensitive information obtained in connection with [our] work is protected from disclosure.” We intend to enforce that principle for our employees, and we need to demonstrate respect for it ourselves by protecting sensitive information entrusted to the FBI.
Congressional oversight is vital to democracy. My June 27 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 is not all done by me. Trump Administration officials are meeting and talking with Committee staff every day and working overtime with teams of FBI employees to accommodate requests and produce relevant information.
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 we developed during the investigation, the Department agreed to produce all relevant FBI documents. 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 would not interfere with it.
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 understood their concerns. As a result, I called on U.S. Attorney John Lausch from Chicago to take charge of the project. 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.
I have devoted almost thirty years to the service of my country. In my line of work, we keep an open mind and complete investigations before we allege wrongdoing by anyone. Our allegations are made under oath and supported by credible evidence, and 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 constitutional self-government. Like each member of Congress, the Deputy Attorney General 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 we accepted the responsibility to help lead the Department of Justice.
The oath requires us to make controversial decisions.
So here is 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 is part of the job. But ignore the tyranny of the news cycle. Stick to the rule of law, and make honest decisions that will 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 inquiry.
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, and we welcome your constructive assistance.
Note: To view referenced letter click here.