FBI Director Christopher Wray issued the following statement during a press conference at FBI Headquarters. (Remarks prepared for delivery.)
Good afternoon, everybody; thanks for being here on short notice.
As you know, the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General released its report today on DOJ and FBI activities in the run-up to the 2016 election. I want to say up front that I appreciate the IG’s work in conducting this important review.
I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about the report, and then I’ll answer your questions.
The FBI’s mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution. To carry out that mission, we’re entrusted with a lot of authority, so our actions are subject to close oversight—from the courts, from our elected leaders, and from independent entities like the inspector general. That’s how it should be. That examination—that oversight—makes the FBI stronger as an organization. It makes the public more safe.
With that in mind, let me briefly address the findings of the inspector general’s report.
I take this report very seriously, and we accept its findings and recommendations. It’s also important to note what the inspector general did not find. The report did not find any evidence of political bias or improper consideration actually impacting the investigation under review. But the report does identify errors of judgment, violations of or disregard for policy, and decisions that, at the very least, in hindsight, were not the best choices.
We’ve already started taking the necessary steps to address those issues.
First: We’re going to hold employees accountable for any potential misconduct.
We’ve already referred conduct highlighted in the IG report to OPR, the FBI’s independent Office of Professional Responsibility. We need to hold ourselves accountable for the work we do and the choices we make. And we’re doing that, fairly but without delay, in the way people should expect. We’re going to adhere to the appropriate disciplinary process for those reviews, and once that process is complete, we won’t hesitate to hold people accountable for their actions.
Second: We’re going to make sure that every FBI employee understands the lessons of this report.
Because change starts at the top—including right here with me—we’re going to begin by requiring all our senior executives, from around the world, to convene for in-depth training on the lessons we should learn from today’s report. Then we’re going to train every single FBI employee—new hires and veterans alike—on what went wrong, so those mistakes will never be repeated.
Third: We’re going to make sure we have the policies, procedures, and training needed for everyone to understand and remember what’s expected of us.
- Drilling home the importance of objectivity—and of avoiding even the appearance of personal conflicts or political bias in our work;
- Ensuring that recusals are handled correctly and effectively—and are clearly communicated to the appropriate people;
- Making all employees fully aware of our new policy on contacts with the news media, which I issued last November—and making clear that we will not tolerate non-compliance;
- Ensuring that we follow all DOJ policies about public statements on ongoing investigations and uncharged conduct; and
- Ensuring that our employees adhere strictly to all policies and procedures on the use of FBI systems, networks, and devices.
I’ve also directed our associate deputy director to lead a review of how the FBI handles particularly sensitive investigations, and to make recommendations on how those should be staffed, structured, and supervised in the future—so that every sensitive investigation is conducted to the FBI’s highest standards.
And we’ll continue to work with the department to gauge our progress in all these areas.
The OIG report makes clear that we’ve got some work to do. But let’s also 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.
As I said earlier, fair and independent scrutiny is welcome—and appropriate accountability is crucial. We’re going to learn from this report, and we’re going to be better as a result.
But I also want to be crystal-clear about the FBI that I see.
In the past 10 months, I’ve met with more than 30 FBI field offices around the country, and a bunch of legat offices overseas. I’ve visited with folks from every FBI division here at Headquarters. And in office after office, and meeting after meeting, I see extraordinary people doing extraordinary work. Again and again, I hear remarkable stories—frankly, inspiring stories—of the work the FBI’s men and women are doing to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution.
In the past few months, we’ve disrupted terrorist plots from Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco to a crowded shopping mall in Miami.
In March, we charged a ring of Iranian state-sponsored hackers with stealing terabytes of data from scores of American universities, companies, and government agencies.
We deployed more than 600 FBI folks from around the country in the recent investigation of the package bombs in Austin.
This year alone, we’ve recovered 1,305 kids from child predators—some as young as 7 months old.
We’ve arrested more than 4,600 violent gang members in just the past several months; our FBI Lab has closed thousands of cases through fingerprint identification and DNA analysis; and our Hostage Rescue Team has deployed on 27 different missions around the country. I could go on and on.
The FBI’s men and women 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 FBI Director, I’m laser-focused on ensuring the Bureau continues to do this great work while adhering to our core tenets of fidelity, bravery, and integrity.
As I’ve been saying since my confirmation hearing, I’m committed to doing this job, in every respect, by the book, and I expect all our employees to do the same. I’ve emphasized at every opportunity I’ve had that I’m a big believer in process—that our brand over 110 years is based less on our many successes than on the way we earned them. Following our rules, following the law, following our guidelines. Staying faithful to our core values and best traditions. Trying to make sure we’re doing the right thing in the right way. Treating everyone with respect. And pursuing the facts independently and objectively, no matter who likes it.
That’s the best way—the only way—to maintain trust and credibility with the people we serve.
I appreciate this chance to respond to the IG report, and I’d also refer you to our written response included with the report. Now I’m happy to take a few questions.
NOTE: The FBI’s response can be found in Attachment B of the OIG report.