tv Christopher Wray Pledges Strict Independence at FBI Helm CSPAN July 12, 2017 2:13pm-2:42pm EDT
summary of the contact between donald trump jr. and this rod goldstone? >> senator, i don't know what would be a fair summary. >> would you agree with me this is very misleading? >> senator, again, i don't have the full context to be able to speak to -- >> i want you to look at it and get back with the committee and find out if that was misleading. >> well, as this hearing was getting underway this morning, president trump tweeted out, the white house is functioning perfectly, focused on health care, tax cuts/reform and many other things. i have very little time for watching tv. well, coming up this afternoon we'll bring you another senate judiciary committee hearing, this time committee members will be looking at immigration and visa overstays. we'll be there live starting at 2:30 eastern here on c-span 3. first a look at the highlights from mr. wray's confirmation hearing this morning. >> do you affirm that the testimony you're about to give before the committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god?
>> i do. >> thank you very much. i think i more or less introduced you in my opening comments. so i think now whatever time you take for the usual thing is for a statement but also it's quite usual in this committee that any introductions you want to make you can appropriately make those. that's your decision. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> proceed. >> mr. chairman, senator feinstein, members of the committee, thank you for the privilege of appearing before you today. i also want to thank senator -- for that really very kind introduction. there's no way i could contemplate undertaking an endeavor like this without the love and support of my family. with me here today is my wife helen, both of our kids, carolyn and trip, my parents, my sister,
my niece, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and two of their children. a commitment like this affects the whole family. and i have no words to adequately express my gratitude to all of them. i'm nhonored by the president t be the nominee for the leader of the fbi, and i'm humbled by the prospect of working outside the outstanding men and women of the bureau. time and time again often when the stakes are highest they have proven their unshakable commitment to protecting americans, upholding our constitution and our laws and demonstrating the virtues of the fbi motto, fidelity, bravery and integrity. former attorney general and judge griffin bell who you heard senator hnon invoke several
times and i had the pleasure to work with quite a bit early in my career often used to say that it's amazing what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit. and i think in my experience the men and women of the fbi demonstrate the limitless potential of that saying day after day in the way they tackle the mission. while the fbi has justly earned its reputation as the finest law enforcement agency in the world, its special agents, analysts and support staff more often than not operate largely out of public view. they toil at great risk to themselves and at great sacrifice by their families. but they happily defer individual recognition because they believe that the principles they serve are much larger than themselves.
i feel very fortunate to have been able to witness that kind of selfless and inspiring commitment firsthand throughout my career in public service. as a line prosecutor i learned a great deal from working with brave fbi agents on everything from bank robberies to public corruption, from kidnapping to financial fraud, those agents are my friends to this day, and they taught me a lot about what it means to play it straight and to follow the facts wherever they may lead. i continued my career in public service by moving to washington to work with the justice department for my friend larry thompson, who you also heard i reference. i witnessed the fbi's extraordinary capabilities as the people there worked around the clock and moved heaven and
earth to try to ensure that horrific attacks like those that occurred on september 11th never happen again. i know from up close, and i sleep better because i know, that the horror of 9/11 has never faded from the fbi's collective memory. the bureau has never grown complacent and continues to work tirelessly every day to protect all americans. as hetd of the justice department's criminal division, i again saw countless examples of the fbi's unflagging pursuit of justice, free and independent of any favor or influence. from counterterrorism to counterespionage to the rapidly escalating threat of cyber crime, from human trafficking to public corruption and financial fraud, i worked with and learned from the men and women of the fbi who put it all on the line to make our streets safer and
our lives better. if i am given the honor of leading this agency, i will never allow the fbi's work to be driven by anything other than the facts, the law and the impartial pursuit of justice, period, full stop. my loyalty is to the constitution and to the rule of law. those have been my guide posts throughout my career, and i will continue to adhere to them no matter the test. there is no doubt as this committee knows that our country faces grave threats. as lots of other people have noticed, america's law enforcement and intelligence agencies have essentially to pitch a perfect game every day while those who would inflict harm on us just have to hit once to advance their aims.
i consider the fbi director's most important duty to make sure nothing distracts the selfless patriots at the fbi from the mission. in conclusion, i pledge to be the leader that the fbi deserves and to lead an independent bureau that will make every american proud. thank you, mr. chairman, senator feinstein, i look forward to answering the committee's questions. >> my first series of questions are going to seem maybe very softball. and they probably are softball, but i think that they're very important to every member of this committee, particularly when they have an administration that says democrats can't get answers to their questions when they do their oversight work, or even 30 republicans that aren't chairman of the committees they can't get answers to their questions and things like the role of whistleblowers, that may
not sound like the stuff that is basic to your job, but it's basic to the constitutional principle we have as separation of powers and the constitutional role of congress. so the first one we've heard a lot about the need for an fbi to show independence. you just heard what senator feinstein said about that. and also for the fbi to make decisions free of political pressure or influence. so i'll just ask a very broad question and let you share your thoughts on this subject, what is your view on the independence of the fbi generally, but more importantly as you as director head up that organization? >> thank you, mr. chairman. i believe to my core that there's only one right way to do this job, and that is with strict independence by the book playing it straight, faithful to the constitution, faithful to our laws and faithful to the best practices of the
institution. without fear, without favoritism and certainly without any regard to partisan political influence. i brought to my years to duty as a line prosecutor, that's the commitment i brought to my time as the head of the criminal division. that's the commitment that i think the american people rightly expect of the fbi director. that's the commitment i would make to this committee and to the country if confirmed. and i have way, way, way too much respect and affection frankly for the men and women of the fbi to do anything less than that. and i would just say anybody who thinks that i would be pulling punches as the fbi director sure doesn't know me very well. >> thank you. in my opening statement i emphasized the importance of oversight in helping to make
government more transparent and more accountable as a result and hopefully more effective. so do you have -- do i have your assurance that if you're confirmed you will assist me and members of this committee because of our jurisdiction but maybe i ought to speak for, i hope a hundred members of congress share this view, assist us with our oversight activities, be responsive to our requests and help make the fbi more accountable to the american people? >> mr. chairman, i understand completely what you're getting at. i think the role of this committee is special and i would do everything to make sure we're doing everything we can prompt and response with all things we do especially to this committee.
>> and also not your involvement personally but would you pledge to provide information to congress in a timely manner and to foster open and frequent communication between the fbi and this committee regarding our oversight requests? >> mr. chairman, i would do everything in my power to try to ensure that the fbi's being not just as responsive as possible but as prompt as possible in responding to appropriate oversight requests, absolutely. >> so i'll now go to whistleblowers. i don't know whether i use this exact language in my office private conversation with you, and it doesn't matter whether i did or not, but i have a feeling that not just the fbi but most agencies teach -- treat whistleblowers like they're a skunk at a picnic. but i think it's a little different in the fbi from the standpoint that there isn't the exact protection for whistleblowers that the fbi it's different than most other
agencies except national security. when we met, i gave you a list of fbi whistleblower cases. that list shows that it has taken two to ten years to get cases resolved by the department of justice internal process. now, you may not have any control over that internal process, but the extent to which you do i guess that's how i'm asking this question. fbi whistleblowers also have no access to independent review and the fbi rarely disciplines anyone for retaliating against whistleblower. tone is set at the top, that's why it's so important how you feel about this. how will you protect whistleblowers in the fbi and hold retaliators accountable, not just with your words but with your actions? i'm sorry to say that your predecessors did a poor job in this respect even though they may have been very effective in running a law enforcement agency and seeing that everybody got
the criminals they should get. >> well, mr. chairman, your reputation for looking out for whistleblowers, i think, is maybe unparalleled. and certainly i know this topic is very important to you. i would say first off, retaliation against whistleblowers is just wrong. period. i'm obviously not familiar with, yet, the bureau's internal p processes, but there needs to be a process that allows for appropriate concerns to be raised. and whiz lblowers in my experience having seen them in a lot of different kinds of organization ks play a very important role in ensuring accountability. it's not just oversight from congressional committees and courts, but there's a form of accountability that comes from within. and oftentimes whistleblowers can be a very important part of that. >> i appreciate your words. i think if i remember right whistleblowers should not be retaliated against. i want to assure you that at
least two of your predecessors have told me exactly the same thing. so i think it's how you interpret your own words that whistleblowers shouldn't be retaliated against. but you can understand why i have -- i don't expect that you're misleading me in any way, but your good intentions may not be carried out. and so i think that it's important that you know that. i'm not going to ask you the last question, but i want you to be aware of the fact that fbi whistleblowers are the only federal law enforcement officers who have no access to an independent judicial review. and members of this committee along with me, with this senator, are pursuing legislation along that line. and i would hope that we could get some as you think about it get some support from you so that your law enforcement people aren't treated differently than
other in the federal government. now, i want to go to national security. i got three minutes left. there's no doubt that you are extremely qualified individual with a diverse array of work experience, particularly in investigating fraud, but the top priorities of the fbi are focused on national security with the ultimate goal to protect and defend the united states against terrorism and foreign intelligence threats. any fbi director needs to capably and effectively lead the fbi national security mission. so to that effect, please explain to us how you have the relevant background, skills, knowledge and experience necessary to lead the fbi in combatting national security threats, particularly in the area of counterintelligence and counterterrorism. >> mr. chairman, most of my four years in the leadership of the department both as principle associate, deputy attorney general and as assistant attorney general in charge of
the criminal division, were focused on those issues, counterterrorism and to some extent espionage. importantly during that period of time before 2005 -- or 2006 even, both the counterterrorism section and the counterespionage section were part of the criminal division. and so my oversight responsibilities in the criminal division itself and then to some extent as principle associate deputy attorney general focused on the criminal division and those sections were of course particularly high priority, counterterrorism and counterespionage. so well over 50% of my time in those four years was focused on these very kinds of issues. >> okay. thank you. now i want to go -- this will probably be my last question for my ten minutes. now, and this is in regard to the electronic communications transactions records, actors we
call that for short here, your predecessor fbi director role spoke repeatedly about the need for law enforcement to have the tools it needs to research threats to national security and to have cooperation from electronic communications service providers when doing so. in that regard please explain to us whether as fbi director you will advocate for any legislative fixes congress can put in place to help the fbi get electronic communication transactions records especially for national security investigations. >> well, mr. chairman, there's obviously a tricky balance to be struck in that territory, but it's my experience that access to electronic information is paramount lawfully pursued. i haven't studied the different legislative ideas that are out there, but i do know that we're going to have to as a society both the fbi and the justice department, this committee and
others, industry, our foreign partners, we are going to have to find solutions to these problems because the role of technology is overtaking us all. and so i'm committed to try to work with everyone to try to find a solution. >> thank you. to senator feinstein. >> thanks very much. just a couple of quick questions before i get to the substance of my questions. did you discuss mr. comey or his firing with anyone in the white house, the justice department or the fbi? if so, who, when and what was discussed? >> senator feinstein, i did not discuss those topics at all with anyone in the white house. my only discussion on topic at all was deputy attorney general rosenstein making the observation to me that at the time that i first was contacted about this position, by him, by deputy attorney general rosenstein, was that now special counsel mueller had been appointed to deal with that
issue and that that in effect made for a better landscape for me to consider taking on this position. >> okay. and that was it? >> that was it. >> okay. let me go now to the things that we discussed in my office. my understanding is you served as the deputy attorney general's most senior advisor when the office of legal counsel issued the so-called torture memos in 2002 and 2003. one of the authors of those memos testified in 2008 before a house judiciary committee on june 26th that you were one of the justice department officials who would have received drafts of the memos and that those memos would not have been issued without the approval of the deputy attorney general's office. in fact, he said he believed that you provided comments on the 2003 olc memo, which
concluded that interrogation tactics don't qualify as torture unless they're intended to cause the kind of severe pain associated with organ failure or death. what was your role in reviewing or approvaling that memo or any of the other memos issued by the office of legal counsel regarding the treatment? you should know that there were those of us at that time that were trying to get hold of these memos to look at them. we couldn't -- as a member of the judiciary committee, or member of the intelligence committee, we couldn't even see the memos. so this looms big in my mind. so i would appreciate it if you could answer the question. >> thank you, senator feinstein. i recognize and respect how important an issue this is. first let me say my view is that torture is wrong, it's unacceptable, it's illegal and i
think it's ineffective. second, let me say that -- i'm sorry. >> good beginning. >> exactly. second, both of my predecessors, director comey and director mueller, had a policy which i think is the right policy and i would expect to continue that the fbi is going to play no part in the use of any techniques of that sort. third, i would say that when i was assistant attorney general for the criminal division, one of the things that i think we did that i was most proud of was that we investigated and in one particular case i can remember successfully prosecuted a cia contractor who had gone overboard and abused a detainee that he was interrogating. this was not in iraq but it was an afghan detainee. and that was a case that i'm very proud of. >> and that was the case -- it was a homicide? >> yes. it was a homicide. his abuse of that detainee -- >> that was the case -- >> i'm sorry?
>> the case was rakman in salt pit. >> i don't remember the exact location, but i think it was in the salt pit. i do know it was an afghan detainee, the interrogator's last name was pisaro, and my recollection is we prosecuted him in i think the middle district of north carolina, is my recollection. and he was convicted and he was sentenced. and i think that was not only an important case in his own right, but i think sent an important message of the criminal division's intolerance for that kind of conduct. now, as to the rest of your question, we talked about this in our meeting i can tell you as my time as principle assistant attorney general to my recollection i never reviewed much less provided comments on or input on and much less approved any memo from john uhl on this topic.
i can only tell this committee that i have no recollection whatsoever of that, and it's the kind of thing i think i would remember. >> i would think so. >> my portfolio, it may not be surprising because my portfolio as principle associate deputy attorney general was focused on the criminal division, on the fbi, on the u.s. attorneys' office. the office of legal counsel was not part of my portfolio. it's not to say i never had any interaction with the office of legal counsel, but that was not sort of squarely within my wheelhouse which was already pretty full to be honest. so later as i said as assistant attorney general we did provide input on the general meaning of the statute, but not as to any particular technique. and the reason for that is because i wanted to preserve for the criminal division the proper role of prosecutors, which is not to provide legal advice or forward looking but rather to be able to investigate, prosecute cases including cases against
people who go beyond the bounds of the law. >> could you speak to your connections to the case at abu ghraib prison? i understand you received a memo from the cia i.g., which stated i.g. was investigating the abuse of detainees at abu ghraib. and that memo discussed a suspected homicide of detainee monadel al jamadi and included, quote, i am referring this matter to you now concurrent with the release of the final autopsy report, end quote. so when were you first informed about allegations of detainee abuse at this prison or elsewhere? who informed you? and what actions did you take? >> well, senator, i don't have a clear recollection in my head about when exactly i first learned about the abuse at abu
ghraib in particular. i know we were getting referrals from the cia i.g. on various detainee matters and investigating those. and i believe at some point some of those referrals began to include not just places like in afghanistan but also in iraq. and we opened any number of investigations in response to those referrals. a lot of those investigations took awhile, and i think a lot of them may have come to fruition after i left the department in the very beginning of may of 2005. >> so you have no specific recollection? let me -- i have a little bit more time. let me ask you about civil injunction authority related to terrorism. as you know there's a relentless and growing isil recruitment effort through social media platforms. and recruitment is repeatedly
identified in nearly all of the 100-plus criminal indictments brought by federal authorities during the past two years relating to isil. the civil injunction authority, as i understand it, exists for the attorney general to obtain orders against those who provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations as well as to shut down websites from distributing software for spying on people. how do you feel about use of this civil injunction? and what commitment to explore it and possibly use it would you be prepared to make? >> well, senator, i'm not overly familiar with this particular tool in the arsenal that the fbi has, but i would be very interested in learning more about it and seeing how it can be used more effectively. i will say that from my experience in combatting
terrorism back in the early 2000s that material support, legal remedies are particularly important. one of the things we used to say to people that i feel very strongly about is if america is counting on people to catch the terrorists with their finger on the switch of a bomb, that's way overly optimistic about the ability. and so you need to look at a terrorist plot by looking at the whole continuum of it, where it begins. and somewhere on that continuum, we'd far rather catch a terrorist with his hands on a check than his hands on a bomb. and so that to me any kind of material support remedy that is available is particularly important to try to prevent attacks as opposed to trying to play catchup after attacks have already occurred. >> thank you. one last quick question. will you commit to informing this committee if you witness or learn of any efforts to interfere with the work of special counsel mueller?
>> assuming that i can do it legally and appropriately, absolutely. i'm very committed to supporting director mueller in the special counsel investigation in whatever way is appropriate for me to do that. i've worked closely with director mueller in my past government service. i view him as the consummate straight shooter and somebody i have enormous respect for. and i would be pleased to do what i can to support him in his mission. >> what i'm asking is if you learn about any machinations to tamper with that that you let this committee know. >> understood. >> thank you. if you want to say more, you may. >> senator, any time talking with this committee i would consult with the appropriate officials to make sure i'm not jeopardizing an investigation or anything like that, but i would consider an effort to tamper with director mueller's investigation -- thank all of our