Wray defends FBI after 'sobering' watchdog report

Wray defends FBI after 'sobering' watchdog report
© Greg Nash

FBI Director Christopher Wray told reporters Thursday afternoon that he was "disappointed" by the findings of the Justice Department office of inspector general's (OIG) report on the bureau's conduct during the 2016 election, saying that the bureau accepted its recommendations.

“As far as the report goes, there are some sobering lessons in there,” Wray said in a brief press conference held shortly after the 500-page report was made public. “Number one, the importance of trying to make sure we avoid even the appearance of bias in all of our work."

ADVERTISEMENT

But he also voiced support for the integrity of the bureau as an institution, tacitly defending the law enforcement agency from months of broadsides from President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE and other Republicans who have damned it as “corrupt” and “biased.”

“The OIG report makes clear that we’ve got some work to do,” Wray said. “But let’s be clear on the scope of this report. It’s focused on a specific set of events back in 2016, and a small number of FBI employees connected with those events.

“Nothing in the report impugns the integrity of our workforce as a whole, or the FBI as an institution.”

In his report released Thursday afternoon, inspector general Michael Horowitz found that none of the decisions he examined from the bureau’s investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRoger Stone shares, quickly deletes Instagram photo of federal judge on his case Barack, Michelle Obama expected to refrain from endorsing in 2020 Dem primary: report Why the national emergency? A second term may be Trump’s only shield from an indictment MORE’s handling of classified information were tainted by bias.

But he hammered former FBI Director James Comey for taking it upon himself to break department policy, often without the knowledge of senior Justice Department officials — conduct that Horowitz condemned as “insubordinate” and “extraordinary.”

And he fiercely criticized five FBI employees assigned to the case who exchanged text messages on bureau devices that were critical of then-candidate Donald Trump.

Two of those of those officials, counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, were called out by name. Horowitz concluded that their conduct cast a “cloud” over the investigation and that it was “antithetical to the core values of the FBI and the Department of Justice."

In one particularly shocking exchange, Strzok told Page "We'll stop it," after being asked, "[Trump's] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!"

Wray declined to reveal how many of the five officials referred by Horowitz for an internal conduct review are being examined by the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

In its official response to report, the bureau emphasized that while it “recognizes mistakes were made…. These mistakes were errors of judgment, violations of or disregard for policy, or...simply not the best courses of action.”

“They were not, in any respect, the result of bias or improper considerations.”

The report has largely divided Washington along partisan lines.

Democratic lawmakers have zeroed in on the notion that Comey’s conduct damaged Clinton’s bid for the presidency, while Republicans have argued that it shows systemic bias against Trump.

“After reviewing the findings, one can reach no other conclusion than the FBI sorely mishandled the investigation into Secretary Hillary Clinton,” Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight Winners and losers in the border security deal GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration MORE (R-N.C.), a spirited critic of the FBI, said in a statement. “Right from the beginning, it's clear that Secretary Hillary Clinton was treated differently —and not for good reason.”

Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSchiff: Evidence of collusion between Trump campaign, Russia 'pretty compelling' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears Steel lobby's PR blitz can't paper over damaging effects of tariffs MORE (D-Va.), meanwhile, said Thursday that "the actions of the then-FBI director more than one time actually benefited Trump's campaign and his election chances."