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lieutenant governor didn't mention the relative lack of in-n-out burgers in the los angeles area. >> good call. >> but the ball is kind of in "the new york times" court, i think. they had several days of breaking news on this. we'll see if they break something else and how the administration responds. >> all right. that does it for us this morning. >> mark says we need to do this show at 3:00 as well in the afternoon. >> it's just -- >> it moves so fast. >> the incoming is unbelievable. in just a little bit brian williams will be covering the confirmation hearing for fbi director nominee christopher wray. first chris jansing picks up the coverage right now. >> thank you, joe and mika. i am chris jansing in for stephanie ruhle. this morning, damage control. don junior telling what happened in that meeting. >> in retrospect i probably would have done things a little differently. >> and whether or not there may be other connections. >> i've probably met with other people from russia, certainly not in the context of an actual
formalized meeting. >> this morning, what did the president know? his lawyer weighs in to nbc. >> the president did not see any emails relating to this at all. do you know when the president saw the e-mail? when everybody else did. plus this hour the president's choice for fbi director gets his hearing on capitol hill, where questions about russia and loyalty are sure to drive the day. the hearing on christopher wray starts moments from now. take a look, live pictures of the hearing room. our brian williams will join us for full coverage. but we begin today with a growing cloud over the white house. donald trump jr. trying to explain away that meeting with a russian attorney. president trump insists his son is innocent, but legally speaking that is still an open question. i have not a great team to help me dig into all of this. let's start with nbc's kelly o'donnell at the white house. kelly, this story seems to be evolving every hour. what's new this morning? >> reporter: well, when you look at what don jr. has said
publicly now, it's sort of in the category of his curiosity got the better of him. if he were to look at the situation today, he might do it differently. but nothing to see here because the meeting didn't produce anything. donald trump jr. spoke on fox news channel with sean hannity, a friendly environment where they went through kind of all of the outstanding points. and this was donald trump jr. claiming that he is being transparent by putting out his e-mails, even though he did so just after being alerted that "the new york times" was prepared to publish them. here is don junior talking about some of the misgivings that he has now, that he's learned things. it's 13 months later, times are a bit different, even though at the moment, remember the subject line of that e-mail was russia and clinton. here is part of the don junior defense. >> in retrospect, i probably would have done things a little differently. again, this is before the russia mania. this is before they were building it up in the press. for me, this was opposition
research. they had maybe concrete evidence to all the stories i had been hearing about but underreported for years, not just during the campaign, so i wanted to hear it out. but really it went nowhere and it was apparent that wasn't what the meeting was actually about. >> reporter: and so he really makes clear there that there was this interest in finding out what was there. he does not talk about any sort of speed bumps that would have suggested to him that meeting with a russian national or having potential information gathered by a foreign adversarial government against a political opponent should have raised alarm bells. none of that comes through. his answer to that is that because there was nothing productive from the meeting, there was nothing to report. that's typically not how it works. president trump, who had backed off and had not done much in the way of publicly defending his son has done so on twitter now. today he is tweeting my son donald did a good job last night. he is open, transpaurnt and innocent. this is the greatest witch hunt
in political history. sad. witch hunti has been a phrase te trump administration has used, the president has for a very long time. this gets very close to the family with the president's son and son-in-law as a part of this meeting that's getting all this attention. chris. >> kelly o'donnell, thanks. i want to bring in robert traynham, he's currently an msnbc analyst, debbie hines is a trial attorney and former baltimore prosecutor, phil and with me howard dean, former dnc chairman and msnbc contributor. so whatever you want to call it, robert, speed bumps, he didn't seem to think that much was going on, what do you make of don junior's defense that, first of all, he was naive, he was new to politics, and anyway nothing came of it. >> that could be partially true. yes, they are new to politics and, yes, he's never done this before. what's more troubling is two things. one, is that on the second e-mail he cc'ed paul manafort
and don junior had a meeting. paul has been around for many, many, many years. one would think he would not have taken that meeting and said what are you doing, we need to call the fbi immediately. this is not even illegal, this is highly unethical. this is the russians, dawnonald junior, we should not be doing that. so one could make the argument that the gray beard should have said something but didn't and that's very, very troubling. >> and the president says, this is another tweet from this morning, when you hear the words sources say from the fake media, oftentimes these sources are made up and do not exist. howard, of course the source here happens to be his own son. but the president has had some success with that whole fake media thing with his base, so strategically what do you make of what the media is doing. >> well, his base is going to believe whatever and they don't care that he lies through his teeth every day. here's what the big problem is,
there's three of them. first of all, you don't meet with the russians during a campaign. that's probably against the law to take aid from any foreign power. second of all, donald junior lied clearly. he had one story, then he had another story. third of all, anybody who believes that there was a meeting that had donald trump jr., jared kushner, and paul manafort the campaign manager and they did not orally brief the candidate after that meeting is smoking something. >> let me ask you something, because you obviously ran for president so you know very intimately how campaigns go but you also were dnc chairman during another pretty big campaign. how does somebody who -- and i'm just talking about the e-mails that we know. these are the e-mails that donald trump jr. himself put out. this is somebody he really didn't know he said who it was, although it does say, and she's denied it, that essentially a russian kremlin-related attorney, how does someone who's just an acquaintance set up a meeting and not just with one of the people closest to the
president but a second person, jared kushner, close to the president, and the campaign manager if you essentially, you know, are just doing a favor to somebody. and again by his own words on sean hannity last night, he said things were going a million miles an hour so they were pretty busy. >> these guys don't tell the truth, right? here's how the meeting was set up and this is well documented by lots of sources and they're not sources say, they're documented, spoken sources. there was a russian that was involved with the miss universe pageant which was staged in moscow in i think 2013. that is the connection. he's very close to trump, all the trumps, but particularly trump senior and that is the connection that this woman who was very close with what used to be the kgb, the russian intelligence services and very close to putin, that is the connection that they used to get the meeting. >> "the new york times" runs down a list of the possible legal liabilities here, the
challenges that donald trump jr. could face, collusion, conspiracy, election law violations, illegal -- oh, we lost her? so we've lost her for a minute. phil, i'm going to go to you and hopefully we'll get back to her about the legal part of this. but the politics of it is really unbelievable. every time it seems that the president thinks he's making progress, something else happens here. you write about a category 5 hurricane, the president being very frustrated about the coverage he's getting and then let me play for you what sarah huckabee sanders said yesterday. >> i have a quick statement that i will read from the president. my son is a high quality person and i applaud his transparency and beyond that i'm going to have to refer everything on this matter to don junior's counsel and outside counsel and won't have anything else to add beyond that today. >> what's happening inside that
white house, phil? >> well, what you saw right there is there's not really a willingness to get out there and forcefully defend donald trump jr., and that's in part because a lot of these aides in the white house don't want to create any legal exposure for themselves. my colleague, ashley parker, and i spent the last couple of days talking to a lot of white house officials about the environment and the situation, and we really struggled to get anybody to be willing to defend him and to be willing to talk about what happened in that meeting because none of these aides wants to become a target of the mueller investigation themselves. but the bigger picture inside the white house is you have a president who's really frankly furious that this russia cloud continues to hang over his presidency. there was a feeling that he had a successful foreign trip and then he got home saturday night and all of a sudden these headlines started appearing in "the new york times" and it's distracted him personally. he's been watching a lot of television news the last few days to take in all of the scandal coverage. >> well, that's not new. he's always watching the coverage. >> but it's impeded his agenda
too and become a problem inside the white house. we now have a lot of backbiting and suspicions among the senior staff about who's leaking to whom, who can you trust and it's really a toxic environment. >> debbie, let me go back to you since we've got you back now. the list that "the new york times" put out about possible legal jeopardy for donald trump jr. is collusion, conspiracy, election law violations, illegal hacking, what do you say? >> oh, my god, he is facing so many different issues it's almost like a prosecutor's dream dealing with it. first, on the campaign finance laws, no american can accept anything or solicit anything from a foreign national and russia is a foreign adversary of the u.s. so what he thought he was going to be getting is like getting the best birthday gift ever or having christmas come from christmas in terms of the election, so there's clear campaign violation laws there. >> but is naivete or not knowing
about these laws a defense? >> you know, i love that question because i'm asked that question by my clients very often. no, ignorance of the law is never a defense. the fact that you did not know that you were breaking the law is not going to be a defense, despite what the trumps may think. so there's just a myriad of problems here. but in addition to just donald trump jr., there's also the issue of the campaign itself because these three individuals were there not on a personal agenda, they were there on a campaign. so with regard to all of the issues set forth about donald trump jr., the campaign is facing its very own issues. the only thing that's missing from the list which would take a lot more than just the e-mails was the big "t" word, treason. they were all three of them trying to work together to undermine our democratic process. forget what they're saying about the hillary clinton e-mails, it was democracy that was being attacked. >> and we haven't even gotten to
the fact a lot of people questioning why jared kushner, given the series of revelations, still has his security clearance. more to come on this. we'll be talking about it throughout the day. coming up in just minutes, the confirmation hearing for the man who could be the next fbi director. that will be getting under way, and my colleague, brian williams, picks things up on a very busy news day. tech: when you schedule with safelite autoglass, you get time for more life. this family wanted to keep the game going. son: hey mom, one more game? tech: with safelite, you get a text when we're on our way. you can see exactly when we'll arrive. mom: sure. bring it! tech: i'm micah with safelite. mom: thanks for coming, it's right over here. tech: giving you a few more minutes for what matters most. take care! family: bye! kids singing: safelite® repair, safelite® replace. when a fire destroyedwith us everything in our living room. we replaced it all without touching our savings. yeah, our insurance won't do that. no.
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again and welcome to our special live coverage today of the confirmation hearing in the u.s. senate for christopher wray, age 50, to run the fbi. if confirmed, he'll be known here after as donald trump's man to run the fbi, the man who followed james comey at the top of the fbi. we'll be talking about this and watching this hearing all day. senate judiciary committee, you see the camera crews and still photographers and reporters awaiting his arrival at the witness table. kasie hunt is on capitol hill for us, part of our huge group of correspondents and analysts to cover this story today. she will lead us off for this part of our coverage. kasie, set the stakes for everything we'll be seeing today. >> well, brian, i think the stakes really are centered around everything we've been talking about, about donald trump jr., the latest news about
his meeting with this russian lawyer, his knowledge that they wanted to talk about hillary clinton, saying that he would love that, and that really sets the stage for the scene here where you're going to have an fbi director nominee who is pressed repeatedly about the president, who of course as we know has been almost in hiding the last couple of days, not holding public events. this is a post where he had asked the previous fbi director for loyalty, according to the previous fbi director, and now this, of course, his pick to lead that agency. so i think you're going to hear quite a bit of pressure from senators on that question. i think more broadly around the capitol, brian, we're actually down here waiting for paul ryan, the speaker of the house, who has not yet commented on what has unfolded the past couple of days, this drama with the president's son. he hasn't had anything to say about it yet.
i pressed mitch mcconnell about it yesterday and he said, look, these investigations are going to work themselves out, wouldn't comment beyond that. so hopefully we'll get a chance to at least put that question to the house speaker today, and we will also see if there is any new information that unfolds as those senators start to question the fbi director, if there are senators who are involved in the investigations that are unfolding up here on capitol hill. we also know, brian, that this is the week that senate intelligence is starting to talk to witnesses in their investigation. that is a major new phase in the work that they are doing and clearly they have additional information to go on, considering the events of the last 72 hours. brian. >> indeed they do, kasie hunt, thanks. we'll be checking in with you today. over to kelly o'donnell at the white house. kelly, we were talking about this on the broadcast at 11:00 eastern last night. this truly is no ordinary time for this white house. we have not seen a briefing on
camera thus far this week. the president going three days without public events posted on the schedule. we've kind of heard from the president this morning on his twitter feed, reminding his followers that the work we do here is fake and any time they hear "sources say," at least in large part we have made that up. so having set the stakes like that, how closely will the white house be watching this hearing? >> well, it is high stakes because, of course, the responsibility to carry much of this forward would rest with the new fbi director. and there is a bit of a bunker mentality here, in part caused boy the failure to get the health care law passed. that would have been a big agenda item they could be talking about. that's gone nowhere. we talked about the g20 where he believes he had some successes. there's a lot of controversy about his meeting with vladimir putin. and tonight he leaves to go to france to accept the invitation of french president emmanuel
macron. so there is a holding pattern with not much agenda to fill it. at the same time, we know the president's nature is to be very attached to what's happening on television, what's being talked about related to his administration, and we're in a new iteration where it is really about his own family, his own name sake, and of course his son-in-law, jared kushner, one of the most trusted advisers the president has, who was also in that meeting. perhaps some of the most perilous time for donald trump jr. could come not in what's in those e-mails but when he has now consented to go and speak before congress under oath, investigators, said very free lein his interview on the fox news channel that he would cooperate fully and that would mean if he is not fully truthful, if he does not give a fully disclosive account, that's where so many in washington fall into trouble. not to prejudge what he would do or not do, but that's where the
peril begins to really line up and that goes right back to christopher wray, the man who is the president's choice to be the next fbi director. christopher wray, who is an attorney who has criminal justice background at the department of justice, well respected on both sides of the aisle, a very traditional choice for the president in many respects. but there is a sense of a holding pattern where the white house doesn't have new agenda material to be talking about and there is a collective gasp of what could fall next, as we've seen the drip, drip, drip of reports that have come out and we also now know that the president himself on the way home on air force one with his senior team helped to begin crafting the initial statements of donald trump jr. it's unclear what the president may have known earlier, but he became aware of the existence of these e-mails and the meeting involved in this in june of 2016, so 13 months ago, at trump tower. the president was at trump tower part of that day back in june,
2016. he also had a very big donors meeting at the four seasons in new york. it was right after he had won the indiana primary, clinched the nomination, but it was also a time when there was a lot of fury about whether or not there would be a contested convention coming up. so it was a heated time in the trump campaign. so we don't know what he knew then. we know in the last few days he has been involved, has had a hand in crafting and approving the statements coming from his son. brian. >> kelly o'donnell at the white house, thanks. i mentioned pete williams is watching with us from our bureau. pete, as we put together the kind of viewer's guide and personality profile for this nominee, fill in the blanks. a young man i know born into an upscale new york family. his father was a partner in a well-known law firm, attended the buckley private school in new york, attended phillips academy, attended yale and then yale law school, so he certainly has had a first-class legal
education. >> and then a u.s. attorney in atlanta where he served with sally yates. then he was in the justice department where he served alongside james comey. he also knows robert mueller. so it's been kind of a small group of people that have been the star attractions here in this drama for the past several months. brian, if today's hearing were on sesame street, we'd say it's brought to you by the word "independent" because you're going to hear that a lot today. this is a man that's been nominated by a president who demanded loyalty from the previous fbi director, james comey, and then fired him. so mr. wray will be pressed repeatedly to demonstrate that he will be independent of the president, that he won't express loyalty to the president, that if he's asked to do something by the president that he thinks is wrong, he'll stand up for what he thinks is right. these will be the main questions. now, as a practical matter, if he is confirmed, imagine the job he's going to have. he'll be the director of the fbi.
robert mueller will be the special counsel running the investigation of russian election meddling. robert mueller, who served launch longer as the fbi director than anyone except j. edgar hoover, he was asked to stay on an extra two years, held over by popular demand. so it puts him in sort of a difficult position. he will not be the -- in other words, he will not bow te the m quarterback on this investigation, in which the fbi will play a very big role. while mueller has hired 16 lawyers and counting, he's also counting on fbi agents to do all the interviews and that kind of work. so it will be an interesting practical situation for him to step into. >> pete, just before i have to let you go, is it -- is it to be assumed that mueller was ahead of yesterday's developments as we learned them, the e-mail
chain. is the common assumption that was was known to him or is he reacting along with everybody else? >> well, i'll say, first of all, that we don't know. robert mueller has run an exceedingly tight ship there. my guess is that he didn't know. i don't know to what extent the lawyers for kushner or trump jr. who came up with these e-mails immediately gave them to the special counsel. i kind of doubt that. but it's not unusual in these investigations for sometimes the investigation to run ahead of where the news accounts are and sometimes the news accounts to run ahead of where the investigation is. and i wouldn't be surprised if the news accounts came first. >> all right. pete williams, thank you. we'll be relying on you as the day goes on. jeremy bash is with us, former chief of staff at pentagon, cia, former counsel to the house intel committee. jeremy, fill in the blanks before we get under way.
we're watching the photographers kind of on a swivel waiting for the nominee, waiting for various members of the committee coming into the room. >> brian, let's not forget the president of the united states is currently under federal investigation for obstruction of justice for firing the fbi director, for firing the individual who chris wray is now being nominated to replace. so if this were any ordinary hearing, chris wray has the legal paedigree, the professionl experience and the resume and he's qualified to be fbi director. he comes out of that mainstream republican conservative pro law enforcement tradition. but this is no ordinary hearing. most of the questions i expect from the dais will be about whether or not the president in interviewing chris wray asked for an oath of loyalty, whether or not he spoke to him about the investigation, and whether chris wray can be an impartial investigator of the president and the inner circle's conduct. >> jeremy, in the interim, he has, as many attorneys do, represented private clients.
do you expect to hear a lot about that today? >> not so much. i think there may be some questions about law enforcement authorities, encryption, how law enforcement accesses information. there are a number of important issues, including counterterrorism. after all the fbi's mandate is very wide and sprawling, but i expect most of the conversation to be today about russia, the threat that russia poses, the counter intelligence challenges and this particular investigation. >> all right, jeremy bash, thank you. andrea mitchell is here with us. andrea, to you, your preview of what to expect today. >> i want to watch the committee. the chairman, senator grassley, the republican, has kind of gone off the reservation of bipartisanship in recent weeks. he had previously only been issuing letters jointly signed by dianne feinstein, his ranking democrat, his co-chair, vice chair. and now in the last couple of weeks he's been on his own. he most recently in the last 24 hours raised questions about whether the russian woman, the
lawyer who had met with don junior and manafort and jared kushner had been improperly visaed by the obama homeland security committee. so he's on what some people are saying going off on a tang engt and miscommunication. they started off on the right foot, dianne feinstein is very confident of that. and she has been a tiger on all of this, so we'll have to see how this evolves today in the questioning. >> are you trying to tell me that partisan politics have broken out on capitol hill? >> well, it's a question now as to whether these republican stalwarts of going to stand with the president or are so embarrassed by what's happened by don junior to say nothing of the potential legal kpli kagsz or political implications that people will start going off the reservation. >> matt miller is with us in washington. forgive us for whipping around. there's your nominee, 50-year-old christopher wray. kind of grainy pictures there as we are trying to get a live
signal out of a well protected hallway on the senate side of the u.s. capitol. again, note the photographers waiting for the entrance and when mr. wray walks in the room, we will notice from them. matt miller, former spokesman over at the justice department and someone we call on when the subject turns to all things justice. matt, your preview. >> so i think obviously chris wray will be the person in the witness chair but jim comey will be the ghost hovering over many of the questions he's asked. as jeremy noted, i think there will be questions about christopher wray's interview with the president and what the president said to him either in asking for a loyalty pledge or asking how he'll handle the russia investigation and how christopher wray responded. and then there will also be questions about the level of independence he'll have going forward. i think this is important not just because of the russia investigation, but because of other investigations that might arise unrelated to russia that touch on the president or other members of the administration over the course of the next few
years. and also because the president, his outside legal team and a number of his surrogates are really conducting an unprecedented ongoing campaign against the justice department. you saw the president again this morning called the investigation a witch hunt on twitter, as he's done in the past. he's attacked the deputy attorney general, rod rosenstein, on twitter as well. he's reportedly complained about jeff sessions recusing himself from the russia investigation. so it is incumbent on somebody like christopher wray to be willing to stand up for its mission, stand up for its independence and stand up for its integrity -- the integrity of its investigations and i think that's what we'll see him be asked about today. >> all right, matt miller, thank you. andrea mitchell, i said earlier no public events for three days on the president's calendar. he leaves tonight for paris, for bastille day celebrations. what we've heard from the president again, three minutes ago on twitter, i'm hoping you
can help me decipher this. why aren't the same standards placed on the democrats. look what hillary clinton may have gotten away with. disgraceful. do you want to take a whack at that? >> i'm trying to figure it out myself. earlier he called it a witch hunt, so he's still on the fake news or what the democrats are doing, that combo. perhaps this is a reference to e-mails, since his son voluntarily tweeted out a whole e-mail chain. nobody was forcing him to do that other than the questions that were raised by "the new york times," and they said they were about to reveal them themselves. so he voluntarily released his e-mails, so perhaps it's an e-mail reference. but it's hard to figure out what this is about. >> let the record show andrea mitchell is always game for a challenge, though sometimes the material leaves us with more questions than answers. we have so many guests to help us with our coverage. here in the studio, someone well
known to our audience, malcolm nance, 35-year veteran of the counterterrorism and intelligence business. and michael german is with us, whose column for "time" magazine caught our eye, as anything with a number does, because we're journalists. four questions congress must ask trump's fbi pick. more importantly for the purposes of this conversation, he is a 16-year veteran of federal law enforcement and a former fbi special agent. so, michael, i'll ask you in condensed form what are the four things you want, you expect the members of this committee to ask that 50-year-old nominee we see walking in the room right now? >> so i think there are a couple of things. obviously the trump/russia issues are going to dominate the hearing, but we have to remember that's one investigation the fbi is running and they have a lot of responsibility and a lot of problems that pre-exist this
director. so what we need to know is both what christopher wray was involved in in the early part of the bush administration when the terrorist attacks of 9/11 of course generated a lot of policies that became very controversial. the torture memos, that warrantless wiretapping of americans, so what his role as a justice department bureaucrat in those decisions were i think will be very important to explore. there are some serious infrastructure problems with the fbi. the fbi lab has had a host of problems over the past 20 years where their scientific analysis has not met scientific standards, and there has been a delayed effort to notify defendants who might have been adversely affected by that flawed testimony. the fbi is also responsible for civil rights investigations, and of course we have an administration that has openly expressed animosity toward
groups like muslim americans, latino americans and others, so how is the new director going to protect those groups' civil rights. finally, diversity at the fbi. that has been a problem since j. edgar hoover, of course, but it's actually gotten worse over the last 15 years. >> a big deal internally. sharp-eyed viewers may have noticed sam nunn, the esteemed former senator from georgia, is in the room and has taken a seat. malcolm nance, we're about to open the microphones here, as we're going to be gavelled to order. set the backdrop, what a fraught period this is for a new nominee to be questioned and perhaps take office. >> well, most significantly this is a nominee who is coming in because his predecessor was fired for not stopping a national counterintelligence investigation. >> there is that. >> so he's going right into the
box almost immediately with a whole series of questions that are going to be framed around that. as you said earlier, independence. is he going to be loyal to the nation or is he going to be loyal to the person who sits in the chair of the president of the united states. i think he's going to -- he'll acquit himself very well, but again, there's a whole host of questions that will have to be answered today. >> and here is senator charles grassley. we'll open the mikes and open the hearing. >> very important nominee hearing. you're welcome. the committee is considering, as you know, the nomination of christopher wray to be the eighth director of the federal bureau of investigation. mr. wray, congratulations to you and your family on your name nation. this is an important day for you, your family, and most importantly, this is an important day for the country considering the importance of the fbi and law enforcement in america. so i welcome you, mr. wray, and
your family to the committee. the ranking member and i will give opening statements. then senator nunn will introduce the nominee. mr. wray will then give his opening statement and introduce anybody that he wants to that's here to support him and people that aren't here supporting him as well. and then after his opening statement, we will turn to questions. as an accommodation to the minority's request, we will have ten-minute rounds for questions during the first round rather than the normal seven. the director of the federal bureau of investigation is charged with running a vast agency with tremendous power. this power, if used appropriately, could threaten the civil liberties of every american -- if it's used inappropriately i should have said.
however, when used appropriately and subject to rigorous oversight by congress, it protects the nation from terrorists, from spies and from hardened criminals. the attorney general is commonly referred to as the top law enforcement officer in our country. the fbi director serves the attorney general as the top cop on the street. it is a very demanding job that requires keen understanding of the law, sound management skills, calm, calmness under significant pressure and a very level head. from what i've seen so far from meetings with mr. wray and from looking at his record, he appears to possess these qualifications. he has an impressive legal career, graduating from yale university and yale law school and clerked for a judge in the
fourth circuit. also spending many years as an assistant u.s. attorney and was on the front lines in cases involving violent crime, drug trafficking, public corruption and fraud. during his time as a prosecutor, he often worked closely with the fbi. while there in that position, mr. wray received the department's highest award for public service and leadership. in 2003, mr. wray was unanimously confirmed by the united states senate to lead the criminal division of the department of justice as assistant attorney general. in that role, he led and managed over 400 prosecutors and 900 total employees in nearly all areas of federal criminal law. there too he worked closely with federal law enforcement partners and key senior officials at the
fbi. of course it's vitally important for the fbi director to be independent. in reviewing his record, i've seen mr. wray's commitment to this independence. he prosecuted little guys and big guys as we tend to separate people in our society, including a major league baseball player, gun traffickers, and rico violators. he prosecuted folks on both sides of the political spectrum, including folks working on a republican campaign, while at the department of justice he oversaw the task force that investigated enron. this investigation led to convictions to several of our -- several enron executives. mr. wray has earned the strong bipartisan support of over 100 former u.s. attorneys across the country, including former
attorney general eric holder and other appointees of president clinton and president obama. and i'll enter at the end of my statement without objection letters of support for mr. wray. the top priority of the fbi is to protect the national security of the united states. the director of the fbi needs to be effective, needs to be accountable, when protecting our nation from terrorism against foreign intelligence threats and against cyber attacks and high technology crimes. the gravity of this responsibility is clear when we remember the scores of americans and others killed or wounded in many terrorist events on u.s. soil following the tragic event september 11th, 2001. isis and other international
terror groups have directed or inspired terrorist attacks in ft. hood, boston, san bernardino, orlando, st. cloud, new york city, columbus, and i suppose other places that we tend and shouldn't forget. tend to forget but shouldn't forget. uniformly, these terrorist attacks on the united states soil show the fbi must have the tools it needs to protect against and investigate terrorism and other serious violent crimes in the homeland and these tools must preserve civil liberties while being adapted to changing threat streams and advances in technology. chief among these tools is section 702 authority. this authority provides the government the ability to collect the electronic communications of approved foreign intelligence targets outside the united states with
the compelled assistance of american companies. section 702 received the strong support of bush, obama and now the trump administration and it's up for reauthorization at the end of the year. many federal courts, the federal intelligence surveillance court and the privacy and civil liberties oversight board have found section 702 constitutional and consistent with the fourth amendment. but the fbi does face questions about its confqueries of sectio2 information and the impact on privacy and civil liberties. in addition, the fbi must also have the tools it needs to navigate the going dark problem as more and more terrorists and criminals use encryption. i look forward to hearing how mr. wray plans to handle these national security issues and protect the american people and uphold the constitution of the united states in keeping with
the fbi's mission. of course everyone here knows that i care about whistleblowers and whistleblower protections. in december president obama signed the fbi whistleblower protection bill that senator leahy and i worked together to pass. the law clarifies that fbi employees who make disclosures to supervisors are protected. unfortunately, there is still a lot of problems with the whistleblower protection process. unlike other law enforcement agencies, the justice department doesn't allow fbi agents to get an independent judicial review of retaliation claims. it concerns me that the department and the fbi hasn't worked with us on the legislation to fix that. fbi whistleblowers need the support of their leadership to ensure that there is a speedy and effective way to resolve their cases. i'd like the assurance from mr. wray that whistleblowers will not face retaliation.
some of his predecessors have done a poor job of protecting whistleblowers. at the fbi oversight hearing on may 3, i said that a cloud of doubt hangs over the fbi's objectivity. the previous director, james comey, said that the people at the fbi don't give a rip about politics, but mr. comey installed as his deputy director a man whose wife ran for the virginia state senate, accepted almost $1 million from the virginia governor, terry mcauliffe's political machine. that's a lot of money for one state senate seat. governor mcauliffe is a long-time friend and fund-raiser for the clintons and the democratic party. deputy director andrew mccabe met in person with governor mcauliffe about his wife's political plans. his official fbi biography was used in setting up the meeting and the goals -- and the goal was for mcauliffe to close the deal and get his wife to run for
office. the office of special counsel is reviewing whether that coordination was a violation of the hatch act, which prohibits partisan political coordination by fbi officials. the inspector general is reviewing whether mr. mccabe should have been recused from the clinton investigation based upon mr. mccabe's financial ties to the clinton political network. mr. mccabe was also named in a sex discrimination lawsuit by a female fbi agent who alleged retaliation. just last week it was reported that lieutenant general michael flynn wrote a letter in support of the female agent. that means lieutenant general flynn is an adverse witness to mr. mccabe in a pending proceeding, yet mr. mccabe supervised the criminal investigation of flynn and allegedly wanted it pursued very aggressively. according to press reports, three fbi employees personally
witnessed mccabe making disparaging remarks about flynn before and during the russian investigation, yet mr. mccabe never recused himself from the flynn investigation. his failure to do so calls into question whether he has handled that investigation fairly and objectively. i have asked the inspector general to add this to their ongoing review. the director of the fbi is entrusted with a tremendous amount of power. that power is subject to appropriate checks against the abuse of our civil liberties. the director is accountable to his leadership -- to the people elected representatives. that's why the fbi director has a ten-year term limit and why there are no restrictions on the ability of any president to fire any director, as president trump did former director james comey. the term limit is a ceiling, not a floor.
and while independents from partisan influence is critical and this committee tends to closely examine the circumstances of mr. comey's firing, history shows that the ten-year term limit isn't there to protect the fbi director from politicians or politics, it's there to protect -- to help prevent the fbi director from overreaching or abusing power. for more than 50 years the fbi was run by j. edgar hoover, arguably the most independent fbi director in history. the very people charged with constraining his power were targets of his secret files. so were the americans whose civil liberties were trampled by the co-intel program and hoover's own illegal abuses, yet the fbi building still bears his name just as the bureau bears the weight of his ugly legacy. but in america, the people rule, not the police or the military. vigorous oversight by elected
officials is both the executive -- both the executive and legislative branch is essential to protect that liberty. i've been doing vigorous oversight work of the fbi for my entire career on this committee. as long as i'm chairman, i will continue to ask important questions and expect honest answers on behalf of the american people. just yesterday we had a hearing in the crime subcommittee that illustrated the long history of congress exercising its constitutional authority to do oversight, including ongoing criminal and intelligence matters. sometimes we cannot talk public about all the details of our work, although we strive to be as open as possible. some people have argued that oversight of ongoing investigations is somehow interference. this ignores the important work -- the importance of our work to ensure transparency and accountability and of course it ignores history. this committee has received
detailed information about ongoing criminal matters and foreign intelligence surveillance activity in the past and we will continue to seek that information. that's what oversight and accountabilities are all about. in the past, the fbi has resisted accountability to congress and has been unresponsive to our letters. and i know for sure about my letters. mr. wray, you and i have spoken about this problem and i expect you to change this practice at the fbi. i would like an assurance from you that you will be responsive to my oversight work and that my questions and documents requests will be taken seriously and answered in a timely and complete manner and some of my questions with you in my ten minutes will pursue this point. so once again, i thank mr. wray for his willingness to return to public service and i look forward to a full and candid conversation with him today. now senator feinstein.
>> thanks very much, mr. chairman. i'd like to begin also by welcoming the nominee's family to this hearing. i want them to enjoy the day. this is probably as good as it gets, so i'd also like to recognize my former colleague and present good friend sam nun. good tawelcome you back. good logic and strong positions while you served in the senate. it was a great treat for those of us who were able to work with you to do so. so, welcome back. the position of fbi director is currently vacant. because of a situation and i want to speak about that. on may 9 of this year president trump fired james comey. although we're still sorting out all of the circumstances and details surrounding the
president's decision, it does not appear that mr. comey was fired because the bureau was a mess, as originally stated. nor is there evidence that mr. comey was dismissed because rank and file fbi agents had either lost confidence in him or because of his handling of the clinton administration. investigation. rather, we find that rank and file agents of the fbi did and continue to overwhelmingly support james comey. in addition, deputy attorney general rosenstein told members of congress that when he wrote his memo, president trump had already decided to remove mr. comey as fbi director. based on press reports and the president's own words, the reason mr. comey was dismissed was because he would not pledge his loyalty to the president. and he would not lift the cloud of the russia investigation.
president trump said in a televised interview, for example, i was going to fire comey regardless of recommendation. and, "when i decided to just do it, i said to myself, you know, this russia thing with trump and russia is a made up story." as the fbi's investigation into russian election interference and possible coordination with the trump campaign progressed, if it appears the president became more and more concerned with director comey's unwillingness to cooperate. in the flin matter, as well as the russia matter. all of this raises important questions for the next fbi head and, particularly, for his independence. first and foremost, the fbi is and must remain an independent law enforcement organization.
free from political influence. and this starts at the very top. the fbi director does not serve the president. he serves the constitution, the law and the american people. as such, the director of the fbi must be a leader who has the integrity and strength that will enable him to withstand any attempts at political interference. today, the judiciary committee will fully examine the qualifications, integrity and independence of the nominee before us. will mr. ray and the fbi pursue investigations with an independence and vigor, regardless of who may be implicated? will he stand up for what is right and lawful? will he tell the president no if improperly directed to pursue certain or end certain investigations.
these are not abstract questions or hypotheticals. and the committee must consider how mr. ray has handled such situations in the past. according to one press account, for example, mr. ray expressed his readiness to resign, alongside then deputy attorney general comey. and fbi director mueller in a standoff with the bush white house about the legality of the nsa's warrant list surveillance program. yet, john yu has testified that just a year earlier mr. ray was part of the senior leadership in the justice department that may have refused an office of legal counsel memo, excuse me, reviewed an office of legal counsel memo justifying the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. this is significant, not only
because of what it says about mr. ray's views and independence at the time, but we know there are those who would bring back torture if they could. how he would handle this is important. in 2009 this committee heard important testimony stating that fbi interrogators have traditionally used the informed interrogation approach. sufan who many of us know, an fbi agent who was a key fbi interrogator for several major terrorism investigations testified to us directly about the contrast between the fbi's techniques and the interrogation techniques used by the cia during the bush administration. specifically, he testified that these enhanced techniques were operationally ineffective, slow
and unreliable. and ultimately harmful to counterterrorism efforts. in fact, we learned that back in 2002 then fbi director bob mueller ended the fbi's part participation in cia detainees because of the harsh torture methods being used and because they were undermining the investigation. in fact, he pulled his people out. the issue of interrogation techniques is not just something of the past. in february of this past year then candidate trump claimed that torture works and has said that he would, "immediate "immediately"bring back waterboarding and "much worse." i am particularly interested in hearing more about the nominee's
knowledge of the justice department's legal justification for the cia's use of torture during the bushed ed administra. as well as his knowledge of detainee abuse by the military in iraq. i have said before that the cia's use of torture as part of its detention and interrogation program are a stain on our nation's value and our nation's history. the senate intelligence committee commreport in 2014 wh was chairman of that committee. it outlined in specific the horrific abuses of detainees as well as the reasoning used to justify such practices. mr. wray was the principal at the justice department when the office of legal counsel issued the so-called torture memos in
2002 and 2003. one of the authors of these memos testified that olc would not have issued such a opinions without the approval of the office of the attorney general or the office of deputy attorney general. in fact, in his testimony, john referenced mr. w aray as one of the individuals who would receive drafts. so, this raises the question of what exactly was mr. wray's role in reviewing and approving these memos. and i'd like mr. wray to clear this up this morning. i had an opportunity to talk with him. i think this should go on the record and i think that he should respond directly to the full committee. i'm also concerned by reports that mr. wray was alerted early on to the abuse of detainees at
the abu ghraib prison in iraq. i'd like to know more about what the nominee knew and when and what he did in response. this committee is charged with considering mr. wray's qualifications and experience with criminal and counterterrorism investigations. but we must also examine his independence, his integrity and willingness to stand up in the face of political pressure because it will most certainly come. mr. chairman, thank you for holding this hearing and i look forward to hearing from the nominee. >> thank you. we now go to former colleague of ours senator from georgia.
i also had the privilege of serving you for at least more than a decade and a half and maybe two decades and i know well how you were determined, senator, to get things done and represent your people well. so, welcome to the committee and you may proceed. >> thank you very much, chairman grassley and senator feinstein and senator hatch and senator leahy and all the members of the judiciary committee. it's a great honor to appear before this committee today for the purpose of introducing christopher wray, the president's nominee to be the director of. strongly recommending him to be confirmed of attorney general. it is a challenging time for the department of justice as well as the fbi. i described judge bell then as a man noted for his quid,