FBI chief vows to hold employees accountable after report on Clinton probe
The Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray has promised to review how the agency conducts “sensitive” investigations in future in the wake of critical report by the Department of Justice inspector general.
“We’re going to hold employees accountable for any potential misconduct,” Wray told a press conference on Thursday, adding that the agency takes the DOJ report “very seriously” and “accepts” its findings and recommendations.
While claiming the report “did not find any evidence of political bias… actually impacting” the investigation, Wray vowed to “make sure every FBI employee understands the lessons.”
The IG report, published on Thursday, said the investigators found no evidence that personal bias of many FBI employees directly impacted decisions in the “Midyear Exam” investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. However, Director James Comey “usurped authority” of the attorney general in announcing Clinton wouldn’t be charged and made a “serious error of judgment” by notifying Congress the investigation was reopened shortly before Election Day.
In addition, five employees “brought discredit to themselves, sowed doubt about the FBI’s handling of the Midyear investigation, and impacted the reputation of the FBI," the report said, naming agent Peter Strzok and attorney Lisa Page alongside three more employees whose names have not been made public. Page has since resigned from the FBI, but Strzok remains in the bureau’s employ.
Wray declined to say how many employees have been referred to the FBI’s Office of Personal Responsibility (OPR) for disciplinary review, saying that doing so would compound the mistakes identified in the report and that he was committed to doing things “by the book.”
The FBI will implement in-depth training of every employee, from senior executives on down, in the importance of avoiding even the appearance of bias, maintaining objectivity, properly using FBI devices and following strict new procedures for contacts with the media. One of the report’s conclusions was that many FBI officials involved in the Clinton probe leaked a large amount of information to the media, despite the policies that prohibited doing so.
Answering the question about President Donald Trump’s criticism of the bureau, Wray declined to address it directly, but said the opinions that matter to him are those of judges, juries, families of victims and those who know the FBI’s work, adding that the bureau has low attrition, admission standards tougher than elite US universities, and no shortage of applicants.
“Our brand’s doing just fine,” Wray said.
He also defended the bureau’s refusal to provide certain documents requested by Congress, saying that they were seeking to strike the right balance between legitimate congressional oversight and protecting sources, methods and ongoing investigations.
The House Intelligence and Judiciary committees have repeatedly requested information on the FBI’s counterintelligence probe of the Trump campaign, some of which the bureau has refused to provide. One such bit of information, published for the first time in the IG report, was a text from Strzok to Page saying “We’ll stop it,” referring to the possibility of Trump becoming president. Previous FBI disclosures to Congress had not contained this message, even in redacted form.
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