tv MSNBC Live With Velshi and Ruhle MSNBC July 12, 2017 8:00am-9:01am PDT
forward to being responsive to the members of this committee in whatever way is appropriate. >> i didn't mean to interrupt, i'm sorry. >> your words today will matter, america is listening about what's going on in this hearing and you're going to be speaking pretcy soon as the top cop in the land. are you familiar with a article from politico january the 11th, 2017 titled ukrainian efforts to sabotage trump back fire? >> i am not, senator. >> i'm going to read a little portion. donald trump wasn't the only presidential candidate whose campaign was boosted by officials of a former soviet bloc country. you' ukrainian officials tried to help clinton and undermine trump by questioning his fitness for office and implicating a top trump aid in corruption and they were investigating the matter only to back away after the
election. to help clinton's allies research damaging information on trump and his advisers, a politico investigation found ukrainian american operative who was consulting for the dnc met with top officials in the ukrainian embassy in washington in an effort to expose ties putting trump campaign aide paul manafort according to people with direct knowledge of the situation. have you ever heard of those allegations before? >> i have not, senator. >> i have no idea if they are true. would you agree if they are true, that is wrong for the ukraine to be involved in our elections? >> yes, senator, i take -- >> i got you. that's a good answer. >> will you look into this? >> i'd be happy to dig into it. >> are you familiar with the e-mail problems we've had with donald jr., donald trump jr. the last few days? >> i have not. i have heard there is an issue but i've spent the last few days -- meeting with colleagues so i missed that.
>> this is an e-mail sent june 3rd, 2016 by rod goldstone who is apparently someone connected to the miss universe pageant and ties to russia entertainment to donald jr., emin just kald called and asked you to contact me with something interesting. the crown prosecutor of russia melt with his father this morning and they are meeting offering to provide the trump campaign with official documents and information that would incriminate hillary and her dealings with russia and would be very useful to your father. this is obviously very high level and sensitive information. but is part of russia and its government support for mr. trump, helped along by aras and emin. what do you think is the best way to handle this information? and would you be able to speak to emin about it directly? i can also send this via your
father but it is ultrasensitive wanted to send to you first. 17 minutes later, donald jr. replied, i appreciate that. i'm on the road at the moment but perhaps just speak to emin first. seems we have some time and if it's what you say, i love it. especially later in the summer. could we do a call first thing next week when i'm back? should donald trump jr. have taken that meeting? >> well, senator, i'm hearing for the first time your description of it. i'm not really in a position to speak to it -- >> let me ask you this, if i got a squall from somebody saying the russian government wants to help lindsey graham gt reget re-elected, should i take that meeting? >> i would think you would want to consult with good legal advisers before you did that. >> the answer is should i call the fbi? >> i think it would be wise to
let the fbi -- >> you're going to be the director of the fbi, here's what i want you to tell every politician. if you get a call from somebody suggesting that a foreign government wants to help you, by disparaging your opponent, tell us all to call the fbi. >> to the members of this committee, any threat or effort to interfere with our elections from any nation state or any nonstate actor is the kind of thing the fbi would want to know. >> all right, i'll take it we should call you and that's a great answer. this is what don jr. said saturday before the e-mail came out. if i can find it here. this his statement. about what i just read to you. it was a short introductory meeting and i asked jared and paul to stop by. we primarily discussed a program about the adoption of russian children. that was active and popular with
american families years ago and was since ended by the russian government. but not a campaign issue at that time and there was no follow-up. i was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance and not told the name of the person i would be meeting with beforehand. do you think that's a fair 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 this is very misleading? >> senator, again, i don't have the full context to be able to speak to -- >> i want you to look it and get back with the committee and find out if that was misleading. is russia our friend or enemy? >> senator, i think russia is a foreign nation that we have to deal with very wearily. >> do you think they are an adversary of the united states? >> some situations, yes.
>> do you think trying to interfere with the election is an adversarial move on their part? >> yes, do you believe the hackings did with it the hacking and the dnc e-mails, do you believe the conclusions? >> as i said to your colleague, i have no reason to doubt the intelligence -- >> would that make you a good candidate to be an enemy of the united states? >> i think an effort to interfere with our elections is an adversarial act. >> did you see the press conference last year of come in? >> not live, but yet. >> would you have done that? >> there is an inspector general investigation -- >> i'm not asking about the investigation. i'm asking about you. would you have done that? >> i can tell you that in my experience as a prosecutor, and as head of the criminal division, i understand there to be department policies that govern public comments about
uncharged individuals. i think those policies are there for a reason -- i would follow those policies. >> he talked about somebody that was never charged in the disparaging fashion. do you agree with that? >> that's the why i understand -- >> do you also agree he took over the prosecutor's job by saying there's no case here? >> well, senator, there's an inspector general investigation into his conduct. >> you would not have done either one of those is what you're telling this committee, at least what i hope you're telling this committee? >> i can't imagine a situation as fbi director i would be giving a press conference on an uncharged individual. >> you say mueller is a good guy, right? >> that's about my experience, yes. >> you'll do anything necessary to protect him from being interfered with when it comes to doing his job? >> absolutely. i think he's -- >> do you believe in light of the don jr. e-mail and other allegations that this whole thing about trump campaign in
russia is a witch hunt? is that a fair description of what we're all dealing with in america? >> well, senator, i can't speak to the basis for those comments. my experience with director mueller. >> do you consider this endeavor a witch hunt? >> i do not consider director mueller to be on a witch hunt. >> thank you. >> can the president fire director mueller? does he have the authority in law to fire him? >> i don't know the law on that. >> can you get back to us and answer that question? >> i'd be happy to take a look at it. >> okay. do you realize you're stepping into the role of the director of the fbi at one of the most contentious times in the history of american politics? >> as senator nunne said there have been a lot of contentious times in politics but this ranks up there. >> do you understand the challenge that lies ahead for you because institutions in the eyes of the american people are
suffering and the last thing we want to happen is for the fbi to fall out of favor with the american people? >> senator, as i said to you in our meeting, i fully understand this is not a job for the faint of heart. i can assure this committee i am not faint of heart. >> and i think in that committee i told you that i wanted to be an fbi agent and it's a credit to the fbi they never let me become one. [ laughter ] i never actually applied, would have been a waste of time. i admire the men and women of the fbi they are unsung heroes who work morning and noon and night against terrorism, child pornography, they are out there doing it. and you're their voice. this is a big honor, to you agree with that? >> yes, senator, the reason i'm doing this is for those people during the time when my name was first released to the media but
before i was asked to take on the position, i got calls from all of these agents that i used to work with, prosecutors that i used to work with, for and against from different administrations and the outpouring of support and encouragement that i got was both humbling and gratifying and i want to do this for those people and for the victims past and hopefully to prevent victims in the future. >> from my point of view you're the right guy at the right time, good luck. >> senator durbin. >> thanks, mr. chairman. thanks mr. wray to you and your family and friends that join you today. you said words about direct comey and you've characterized him as a terrific lawyer and public servant and colleague. i'd like to ask you, we're in a unusual moment in american history. mr. comy was fired and characterized by the president of the united states as a nut job and stated reason by the
president because the russian investigation was under way and the president believed it was a cloud on his presidency. mr. comey told us a little bit about his direct dealings with the president of the united states. two things really stood out, which i think maybe fairly unique in the history of the united states. he said on one hand, that he having been caught alone in the oval office with the president of the united states spoke to the attorney general and said i don't want that to happen again. i want a witness when i'm meeting with the president of the united states. that is an extraordinary statement by the head of the fbi. if you were asked to meet privately with the president of the united states as director of the fbi, what would be your approach? >> my first step would be to call deputy attorney general rosenstein, there's a policy that applies to contacts between the white house and the department. it goes in both directions. and particular goes to any
contact between -- with respect to a particular case, there are obviously situations where the fbi director needs to be able to communicate with the president on national security matters for example. but in my experience it would be very unusual for there to be any kind of one on one meeting between the fbi -- any fbi director and any president. >> unusual but it happened. it happened to mr. comey and he decided that he was uncomfortable being in the oval office alone with the president. so as unusual as it may be, would you meet in the oval office with the president with no one else present? >> i think it would depend on the circumstances. it would be highly unlikely but i can imagine a situation that might call for it. but again, my preference and my presumption would be that there should be people from the department through working through the office of the deputy
attorney general so that it's not a one on one meeting. i think the relationship between any fbi director and any president needs to be a professional one, not a social one. and there certainly shouldn't be any discussion between one on one discussion between the fbi director and any president about particular -- how could conduct particular investigations or cases. >> the second thing, which i think is extraordinary and i don't know there's any precedent in the history of the united states since the creation of the fbi, was mr. comey's decision after meeting with the president and discussions with the president, to create a contemporaneous written record. you know as an attorney with the department of justice that has evidentiariry value. do you feel bond or feel the recommendation from comey's action to create contemporary written records of your conversations with the president if you become director of the fbi? >> senator, i think at the minimum, i would take the approach that i always do to
talking to people, which is to try to listen very careful to what i'm hearing in the conversation. and there could be times where i would think the appropriate next step is for me to memorialize that but i would evaluate on a case by case basis. >> you can correct me because you have more experience in the area. your memory of a conversation and written con tell rainous records cover different evidentiary value and weight in a courtroom, is that true? >> that's absolutely true. >> what you're saying is under some circumstances conversations with the president of the united states you feel should be memorialized in a contemporaneous written report? >> certainly there would be associations where it would be important to memorialize the conversation like it would be with other people if they were important conversations, i thought it made sense. >> i won't let you off that easy. of course, that is your responsibility as director but we're dealing with an
extraordinary situation here, a man you respected was fired, called a nutjob and the president said to russian visitors, we're putting an end to this investigation. this is not an ordinary course of business for the federal bureau of investigation. this is the highest elected official in the united states of america trying to stop an investigation by putting jim comey out of business. i think it's a little different than the routine requirements of the office, do you? >> well, certainly i would distinguish if this is what you're driving at between a sort of routine conversation and a very significant important conversation and ones that fall in the latter category, i would think it would be hoof me to make sure there's a record of that. >> we talked about russia in this hearing and threat to the united states. you've read the unclassified version of their attempt to have a cyber attack on the united states election campaign. now we have a statement from the
president of the united states suggest, putin and i discussed securing a unit so things will be guarded and safe. now, we've all started with the premise that russia was involved in trying to change our election. we all understand that russia has been a bad actor around the world in many places. and now we have the president saying, we're going to get together with him on the issue of cyber security. so if it is proposed to you by the administration to create this cyber security unit and share information with the russians about the united states capabilities and vulnerabilities when it comes to cyber security, what is your reaction? >> my reaction, senator, is that i need to learn a lot more about the current state of our cyber security defenses and our threats in talking to the career intelligence community professionals to be able to evaluate that responsibly. i wouldn't want to do anything
that if i got that kind of advice and input suggested was putting us at greater risk as opposed to greater protection. >> i would think there would be red flags flying in every direction. i guess that's a bad analogy with russia but i think there should be cautionary feeling about any suggestion that we give to them information about our cyber capabilities and security. wouldn't that be your first reaction? >> senator, my reaction is that any threat, any effort to interfere with our election systems is one whether it's from a state actor from russia or nonstate actor, it needs to be taken very seriously. i would tlink it would be rise for all of us to proceed with great caution in the wake of that information. >> i think i'd go further but i'll leave that question. you and i had a good conversation yesterday about president george w. bush's reaction after 9/11 when it came to the muslim american population of the united states.
i would appreciate it if you would recount your impression of the president's conduct after 9/11 when it came to this topic and your own personal feelings about patriotism of muslim americans and the role they play in keeping america safe. >> thank you, senator, it is something we talked about yesterday. and first off, let me say, i think the fbi director needs to be an fbi director for all americans. second, the conversation that you're referring to, one of the things i remember being struck by by president bush in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 when the dust had barely settled, was that he took great pains to speak -- i can't remember if he spoke at a mosque or what, but i remember that he made a special point of speaking out and saying that this was not a situation where we in the war on terror were at war with muslim
americans, he made an outreach to the community at a time when it would not have been politically expedient to do that. and i remember thinking at the time that was a remarkably courageous and noble gesture on his part and admired him for doing that especially at that time in that environment. >> so i said to you, it is my impression meeting with muslim americans in my state, families and individuals, they are in the same state of mind today as japanese americans were during world war ii when many were headed to internment camps for security purposes. what can you say on the record now if you were chosen as director of the fbi about your relationship working with patriotic god faring lawful muslim americans in our nation? >> i would say i think the fbi director and the fbi needs to be -- the fbi and fbi director for all americans including muslim americans and the -- my
experience in terrorism investigations has been that some of the best leads we ever got, were from members of that community, from muslim americans. i remember having conversations with that with among others, u.s. attorney from your state, pat fitzgerald, a friend of mine. while certainly we do face threats from certain radical ideologies when turn to violence and it is also true that those americans just like all americans are people we need to get information from to help protect the homeland. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> congratulations to you and your family on this nomination. i appreciate your willingness to come back in the public service at a time when i think the nation's confidence in its public institutions is -- has been shaken. and i think it's very important
to have somebody of your character and background and experience serve as the next fbi director because i think public confidence in the fbi has been shaken over recent events. i asked about the rod rosenstein memo he wrote. and i understand there's an inspector general investigation. i don't want to ask you specifically about the facts of that. but you have in response to senator graham, suggested that you never would see it appropriate to hold a press conference about a criminal investigation and while declining directing prosecution disclosed derogatory information about the target of that investigation, is that correct? >> senator, as we discussed when we met, while i don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment on director comey's decision, i don't know what all
went in his decision. but i can tell you in my experience, both as a line prosecutor and head of the criminal division and now as a lawyer in private practice, with the special appreciation for why some of those rules and policies are in effect, that i can't think of a time when anybody from the department much less the fbi director gave a press conference providing derogatory information about an uncharged individual. but i'm not an ensigh cloe paidic knowledge of the department history. >> the fbi director reports to the deputy attorney general, isn't that right? >> that's correct. >> the fbi can't prosecute cases on its own, can it? >> that's also correct. >> and so the fbi is the premiere law enforcement agency in the world is an investigate tri body and not a prosecutorial body, correct? >> that's correct. >> this role is reserved exclusively to the attorney general and department of justice, correct?
>> right. >> so if an fbi director believes that the attorney general or the deputy attorney general have a conflict of interest, such that they don't trust the department of justice to conduct its business impartially, what's an fbi director or anybody else supposed to do? what's -- what is the part of the organization of the department of justice would provide some recourse under those circumstances? in other words, is the special counsel the office that would be best suited to take over those investigations and decide whether a prosecution were indeed appropriate? >> well, if there was a special counsel in place, then that would be the natural place to bring those concerns to. i think you know, the department has a chain of command. if there were conflicts at the
higher levels, you could work your way down. there's also the inspector general of the department of justice that maybe under certain circumstances would be an appropriate outlet. i think you'd have to evaluate each situation based on the facts and sirkds and look at the rules. >> director comey said when attorney general loretta lynch had a meeting on the tarmac at the airport with president clinton, knowing that mrs. clinton was the subject of an ongoing investigation that for him that was the capper, as he put it. he decided not to refer the matter to the deputy attorney general or to the attorney general but rather to take it upon himself to say that no reasonable prosecutor would prosecute a case like that under the circumstances. the reason i'm asking this, i understand your hesitation about talking about a matter that's under investigation by the inspector general, in mr.
rosenstein's memo he lays out the opinion over the last year the fbi's reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage. and it is affected the entire department of justice. you've read the memo, i trust. and he concludes as you know, as a result the fbi is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them. i want to be respectful of the line you're trying to draw here, but i need to know and i think the committee needs to know, whether you understand the gravity of the mistakes made by the previous director and you pledge never to repeat them. >> senator, as we discussed when we met, deputy attorney general rosenstein's memo, which i did read, the way he describes the department's monthliy c policie
practices is consistent with my understanding of the policies and practices and the way i would intend to approach those policies and practices. it's not -- never been my practice to blur the line between fbi investigator and department of justice prosecutor. it's never been my practice to speak publicly as a prosecutor or as a department official about uncharged individuals. i think those policies are important. i think they are in place for a reason. and i would expect to comply with them. >> my statements to director comey on his appearance in front of this committee on several occasions i believe you're a good man who has been dealt a difficult hand. and i certainly was. but even good people make mistakes and my view is mr. rosenstein lays out a pretty compelling rationale why director comey refused to recognize those mistakes and why public confidence could not be restored to the department of justice for the fbi until a
director would acknowledge those and pledge not to repeat them. so that's the purpose of my questions and thank you for your answer. >> so why is it important to have separation between the fbi and the department of justice when it comes to the decision to prosecute a case? >> well, it's been a system that's been in place since time in memorial as near as i can tell, the same kind of system that occurs in state and local law enforcement, the difference between the police and district attorney's office, et cetera. >> is it a check on potential for abuse of power? >> right, i think the theory is the prosecutors can evaluate the legal compliance, constitutional protections, compliance with the rules of evidence, exercise prosecutorial discretion, which is very important and i think if
you collapse prosecutor and investigator into one role, you know, it's one step away from having judge, jury and executioner rolled into one body. >> i couldn't agree me. over the fourth of july, i had a chance to read a great book, if you have a chance, hell hound on his trail. i don't flow if you read that about the j edgar hoover and the martin luther king assassination and the manhunt that the fbi conducted following that terrible and tragic event. but pretty much lays out the case that j edgar hoover, while he was responsible for modernizing the fbi and making it sure that it was equipped to do the job that it has continued to do to this day in an extraordinary fashion, at the same time that he had so much power, that people were worried about his unchecked potential abuse on power. and so i would just submit that it is important to have that
separation of powers and that check on the fbi. and as you point out, the independent prosecutorial discretion and judgment for the department of justice. i think that was a mistake that director comey all be it a good man made and justified his termination. on the minute or so i have left, let me just ask you about project safe neighborhood. the reason why i'm so interested in this, when i was attorney general in texas, we tried to learn from the richmond u.s. attorney and their project exile focusing on gun crime. and to my mind it was one of the most innovative and successful ways to discourage people from using guns or carrying guns, particularly convicted felons and people under protective orders and the like, using the power of the federal law, so that these would not be plea
bargained away, which they frequently are under the state system. with your experience and project safe neighborhood, do you believe that that -- enhanced role for the federal law enforcement authorities to go after violent and repeat gun offenders is warranted? >> i do think it's a very important part of that effort. i prosecuted as a line prosecutor quite a number of straw purchaser gun trafficking cases. and then of course as you mentioned project safe neighborhoods, i think the model of having coordination between state and local and official and what cases can be done more effectively federally is a powerful deterrent effect on gun criminals throughout the country. i think that was a very effective program and model that we ought to be looking at going forward. the fbi's role might be more limited within. atf i think would play in some ways a bigger role in a lot of gun issues but the fbi does have
an important role to play and would need to be in a very significant seat at the table. >> that's a conversation i'd like to continue once you're confirmed. thank you. >> i look forward to it. >> senator whitehouse. >> thank you chairman. i'm delighted you are here and wish you well. i would like to ask as a question for the record that you provide the committee with a complete description of what you know about how it is that you came to be selected. if you could lay that out, we had a similar question and answer from judge gorsuch and i think in this case it would be helpful. but let me ask you a specific question to that here. during the course of coming to this table today and being nominated, you mentioned that you will owe your duty of loyalty only to the constitution and the rule of law. has anybody asked you otherwise?
>> no, senator, no one was asked me for any loyalty oath and i wouldn't offer one. as i said, my loyalty is to the constitution, rule of law and admission of the fbi. >> you kind of answered the question when should the fbi director unilaterally take over the role of attorney general of the united states. and i read your answer to be never. but let's say you're presented with a situation in which you don't have contacts with the attorney general in a particular matter because of a conflict of interest or perception issues, for whatever reason it is that you have lost confidence in the attorney general on that matter. what then if you're not going to just unilaterally take over the role of attorney general and hold your own press conferences and make your own announcements as if you were the attorney general, what would plan b be? do you go to the attorney general any way even though you lost confidence or go to the dag and say i have a problem, try to
work something out? what would be the proper way to face that problem in the department of justice? >> as you know from your own time as u.s. attorney, i think the deputy attorney general is the proper place to go under that scenario. >> good answer, i agree with you. >> i gather your answer to when should the fbi disclose derogatory investigative information onnen uncharged subject is also never. but you went on to say that the protocol against disclosing derogatory information is there for a reason. could you state the reason? >> the reason, senator, is that if the department has negative information to share about somebody, then the proper way for it to manifest that is through charges because then the person who's accused has an opportunity to defend themselves against those charges and it will be resolved by a jury or a
judge if it's a bench trial. so there's a place for the accused to vindicate or fail to vindicate the charges against them. with uncharged conduct, you know, it's the old saying where do i go to get my reputation back. >> it is a corps larry of the rule that the fbi does not disclose derogatory investigation -- investigative information about an uncharged subject that even when a subject has been charged, you limit yourself to the conduct that is charged in the indict or charging documents or in subsequent court filings, correct? >> that's correct, try to stay within the four corners of the charging documents and public record. >> even when you have a charge subject it's not open season? >> we have derogatory information to share it should be manifested in a charging
document of some sort. >> great, thank you. i may be going over replowed ground but i want to make sure i get this right. there was the infamous you 2002 torture memo that gave the department's approval to waterboarding. that memo omitted a number of things, omitted a fifth circuit decision upholding a conviction by the department of justice of a texas sheriff for waterboarding criminal suspects. pretty big thing to overlook in a legal memo in my opinion. it overlooked the court-martial of u.s. soldiers in the philippines for waterboarding philippin philippinos, but you would think the office of legal counsel would be able to figure that out and know the united states had this history. and third it overlooked the
military tribunals that prosecuted japanese soldiers for the war crime of waterboarding u.s. prisoners. so to me, that memo was a horrifying low point in the legal scholar stship of the department of justice. your name came up in testimony in congress with respect to a 2003 memo. could you just let me know what role you had in signing off on any of the olc torture memos and what you learned about them. i know a lot of people were cut of out them. that's part of the problem with the process. what was your role with respect to the memos? >> senator, i have no recollection and as i said to senator feinstein, i'm pretty sure i would recall of ever review gs much less providing input on, comment on, blessing,
approvin approving, anything of that sort any memo from john on this topic. later in 2004, the criminal division did have a fairly surgical role, which was not, underline the word not, in approving any particular interrogation technique but merely commenting on a public general interpretation memo by dan levin about what the statutory standard means. and that opinion, as you know, was rescinding prior interpretations that had occurred. again, i had not seen. i did not think it was appropriate for the criminal division to be playing any role in weighing in on particular interrogation techniques because i think the criminal division's role is and we showed it through investigations we brought, to be investigating and prosecuting
cases where people go too far in interrogation, not providing legal advice -- >> like united states versus lee, convicted of federal crimes for doing exactly that. i'll follow up for the record with what your assessment is of what john hugh mentioned your name. i have two minutes left, like to get on to a couple of other things. there was a famous confrontation between the department of justice and the bush white house over the warrantless wiretapping program back in 2004. acting attorney general comey and director mueller both had prominent roles in that. you were in the department at the time. there was a group of people who indicated that they -- if it was necessary to do resignations they would be a part of the group that would resign if the department's views were not met by the white house. were you in that group and do you have any recollections of
exactly what took place? any episode in which you made that clear? >> yes, i was one of the people who said he would resign. i was not read into the program at the time. my recollection is that i had a conversation with then acting attorney general comey. who shared with me not the classified contents of the program, but that there was a ongoing dispute about a particular program that was constitutional and legal in nature and he explained to me some of the people who were read into the program who all felt the same way he did and their willingness to resign. having worked side by side with those people and knowing these were hardly shrinking violets in the war on terror, there was no hesitation in my mind as to where i stood and i stood with them. if you get to the point where
you have to resign, i'll resign with you. >> last question, congress has oversight responsibility over the fbi. congress also has an obligation to butt out of fbi criminal investigations for very good reason. yet in our oversight responsibility, it's important to make sure that cases aren't being tanked for whatever reason. i'm interested in what you think the appropriate questions are for members of congress to ask about an investigation. for instance, is it appropriate to ask if agents were ever assigned to a matter and how many without getting into details? is it appropriate to ask if any investigative work was done and any subpoenas obtained or interviews done? is it appropriate to consider whether the department's process for following a particular matter like a matter involving a public official for instance has
special base touching that has to happen at various places, whether that actually took place, is it legitimate for congress to look at the process of a criminal investigation without going into the substantive evidence to assure itself that a good job has in fact been done, that an adequate job has in fact been done as in the case of the learner investigation, where quite a lot was disclosed about what had in fact been done? >> senator, i do think that the committee has a very important oversight role that needs to be respected. obviously, investigations need to be sure they are not jeopardized and information doesn't compromise those. in my experience there are usually ways to work through those issues. the particular examples you gave i would have to think through each one. >> my time has expired. i appreciate your time here and wish you well. >> thank you, chairman.
>> senator sass. >> thank you mr. wiray, and to your family and willingness to serve again. this institution has about a 12% approval rating over the last four decades, we've gone from a net average of 50% public support for most of the institutions to about 30. if you're confirmed, you'll have an important responsibility to help rebuild public trust in the bureau. i want to ask you a series of questions about that. but to begin with, why do you think the fbi director has a 10-year term? >> i think the fbi director has a 10-year term because there is a judgments made that the role of the fbi and the role of the fbi director needs to be one that is independent of partisan politics, in other words, ten-year term specifically contemplates there could and almost eneinevitably would chan
in presidency during the tenure and the theory is rightly, that the fbi has both a criminal law enforcement and intelligence role that transcends political policy positions and needs to be kept apart and above from that and to endure through changes in administration. >> so what kinds of conditions would it make sense for an fbi director to be fired under? >> if an fbi director engaged in misconduct, certainly that would be a situation. nobody is above the rule of law. and an fbi director who doesn't comply with the law should be treated like anybody else. >> and when you unpack this concept of independence, because it's kritdically important that the bureau and its law enforcement functions in its investigative functions not be politicized and we have three branches of government. ultimately the legislative and executive branches, the two most relevant at this moment are
accountable to the people. there is a boss of the fbi director. but it's not supposed to be direct political accountability. how do you conceive if you're confirmed who your boss is when you're the fbi director? >> senator, it's the right question, of course. it is true that the president is the head of the executive branch and the attorney general is the head of the justice department. and the fbi is both part of the justice department and part of the executive branch. i think the independence when we talk about independence of the fbi, what we're really talking about is not structural or organizational independence, but independence of process. to me the fbi needs to be able to follow the facts and follow the law wherever and to whomever they lead. it's a process question about how they go about investigating. that would be my commitment if i was fbi director and that's a different kind of independence than a org chart independence.
>> can you state again, you've said it here, it's obvious from your time in the justice department in the mid-2000st, you can imagine circumstances where you would resign. it's critically important, when you put up your right hand and camera clicks went on, people know oaths matter. when you're taking an oath you're seeing ultimately it's the constitution that you serve and that the legislature passes law and executive branch executes them but the bureau's role in the execution of those laws is not to be a politicized or political function. i think the american people need to hear you clearly define the circumstances under which you would resign. can you help us understand when you're restoring public trust in the bureau, how do you understand if somebody is trying to plit size the work and decisions you're supposed to make as director of the bureau? >> first, senator, i would say that former attorney general griffin bell whose name has come
up already today, he told us about positions, especially one like this. you can't do a job like this without be prepared to quit or be fired at a moment's notice if you're asked to do something or confronted with something that is either illegal, unconstitutional, or even repugnant. you have to stand firm to your principles. i heard many people describe me as understated and low key. my kids would describe me as just boring. >> there's some heads nodding -- keep going. >> i don't want to look back, but no one should mistake my low key demeanor as a lack of resolve as some kind of willingness to compromise on principle. anyone who does, would be making a very grave mistake. now, my commitment is to the rule of law, to the
constitution, to follow the facts wherever they may lead and there isn't a person on this planet whose lobbying or influence could convince me to just drop or abandon a properly predicated and meritorious investigation. >> i'd like to tease out a bit more of that. can you help the american people understand where the bureau's responsibilities end and the criminal division or the deputy attorney general's office or main justice's responsibilities kick in in decision-making? how does that work on cases that are below the purview of the director on a day by day basis and cases where the director is directly involved? what's the line between investigation and prosecution? >> well, i think the agents, whether you do it at the line agent level, like when he was a line prosecutor or at the mid level supervisor level or upper management level, the basic
construct is the same. the fbi is doing the investigating, the fact finding, the accumulation of whether or not there's sufficient evidence of a crime to recommend bringing a prosecution against somebody but the decision -- the exercise of prosecutorial discretion is made by the prosecutors who are trained as lawyers and who are mindful of the department aegs policies and procedures about charging decisions. and in my experience, it's less of a line and more in the best practical examples, there's a partnership between the agents and prosecutors working together both in the investigation stage where even though the fbi has the lead, prosecutors can often be very effective in participating in the investigation. and then the best agents that i ever worked with didn't just hand it off to the prosecutor at trial and say good-bye. even though there was a handoff
and assumption of greater responsibility by the prosecutor at trial, the best agents i worked with sat side by side at the counsel table and we tried the cases. there is a shift of responsibility in the system, but again, it's a team effort. i think that's the way it should be approached. >> obviously there are not limitless resources. at some level you as the director will regularly have to make priority decisions versus cyber investigations and violent crime investigations and public corruption, et cetera, lots and lots of really important missions that the bureau has. when you're making those prioritization decisions, when would it be appropriate and when would it be inappropriate for main justice and beyond -- and i mean in particularly the white house -- to be providing direction about fbi priorities and mind share and budget investments? >> i don't think the white house should be playing a role in
prosecutorial decisions, period. from a programatic perspective which gets reflected in things like the budget submitted to congress, focus ed on particular types of cases, you know, there could be a period where we focus more on corporate fraud, a period where we focus more resources on gun crime, there could be a period where we focus more recently on counterterrorism. so there is an effect on the scarcity of resources and the ability to prioritize certain investigations in that sense. i think that's a process that occurs with input from law enforcement and the fbi, with input from the department, and at the end of the day, there is a president's budget that gets submitted to congress for that process. >> so i think i hear you offering a particular versus a general distinction and i want to make sure i'm not put ing words in your mouth. on an annual basis there are going to be decisions made around budgeting, for instance,
about the programs. but it is never appropriate for the white house to be providing political officials to be providing specific direction about specific cases that you're investigating. >> that's my view. >> we're nearly at time. i'm going to stay for a couple more hours for whatever extra rounds we have. wasn't i want to drill into cyber more deeply there. one specific connection to your last line of questioning. do you believe that the russians were involved in trying to influence the 2016 election? >> well, senator, as i said before, all i've seen is the public intelligence community assessment, but i have no reason to doubt the intelligence community's assessment. i haven't seen all the rest of the information, but what i've seen, i have no reason to doubt it. >> for those of us who read intelligence on a daily or near daily basis this is indisputable. it is indisputable in 2018 and 2020 they'll be back and the main tool that those who want to destroy american institutions
have is not by creating new problems, but by trying to exploit and exacerbate existing problems. and american public distrust is one of the most valuable targets the russians have to try to divide us against ourselves. and you're being considered to lead an agency that is going to have to play a front line role in restoring that public trust. you have a big and high calling and many of us are grateful at your willingness to serve. mr. chairman, i'll reserve my questions for the next round. >> i might add before they get involved in our 18 and 20 elections they're going to be involved in the september elections in germany. chancellor merkel already knows that. before i go to senator klobuchar, in the record, letter of support for mr. wray from former d oj officials, the letter was signed by many former senior doj officials from across the political spectrum, include ing a number who worked in the
obama administration. they wrote that mr. wray, quote, as a judgment, the integrity, independence, experience and commitment to the rule of law to be an excellent fbi director, end of quote. and we also support from larry thompson who served as deputy attorney general, bush administration, he wrote that mr. wray's, quote, dedication to public service and our great country is deep, admirable, and unparalleled and he praised mr. wray as a strong -- quote, unquote, strong independent professional. these records will be included without objection. senator klobuchar. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. thank you very much, mr. wray. it is good to see your wife helen there and your kids as well. our daughters are friends. and i learned from nonfbi
sources that your daughter flew in on a red eye tonight and arrived at 4:30 a.m. and the fact that she's kept her eyes open through this entire hearing is a testament to her devotion to her dad. and on a more serious matter, i know you to be a decent person, and a good and devoted dad. so i think that's a pretty good start here. and i thank you for your answers, particularly the recent discussion you had with senator sas about the irrefutable evidence that you have been able to see on the russian influence in our election. and the answers you've given the other senators. and i thought your opening statement reflected the fact that you see the gravity of this moment in time when you're coming in to lead an agency and be nominated to lead an agency of people who put themselves out on the front line every day, without fear or favor. and we owe it to them, but we also owe it to this country to bring back the trust that
senator sasse talked about in terms of the discoverment in washington. so my first question is, when you ran the criminal division in the justice department, did you ever receive requests from the president or other high ranking officials to just let a case go? >> no. >> and i think you answered one of my colleagues, if the president asked you to do that, i think you said you would try to talk them out of it and if a president would not rescind that request, you would resign. is that right? >> i would take all appropriate action, which would include potentially having to resign, yes. >> and from time to time, probably in your career, when i was a prosecutor for eight years, i would sometimes get comments from people, oh, that case, don't do anything about that, whether it be at a dinner or someone calling my office and i had a process where i would tell my deputy, i would most likely not tell the prosecutor working on the case, i had 400
people unless i thought for some reason i thought they needed to know that, if i did, i would say this cannot at all influence what you're doing. i think you know this happens not just to the fbi director, but it happens to people underneath you. and so that's why i appreciated your answer about the process, you have to have processes in place because it is not just the fbi director that get those calls. do you want to respond to that? >> yes, senator. thank you. i think you said it very well. to me, process is so important. and the reason process is so important is because people need to have confidence in the outcome. if there is a decision to charge somebody, people need to have confidence that the process that led to that was fair, impartial, and completely consistent with the law. likewise, if there is a decision to close an investigation, without charges, people need to have confidence that if there was something there, the process would have found it. so the process is terribly important and i think the tone needs to be set at the top and i
will say that, we worked with lots of fbi agents, the thing that is distinctive about all of them is that they will follow the facts and the law wherever it takes them. and sometimes people don't like it, but that's what makes it such a beautiful thing to behold if you're a prosecutor. >> all right. how about your view of working with local law enforcement? we have very good group in minnesota. our fbi there, they stepped in, special agent in charge rick thornton and his group stepped in when we had the stabbing at the shopping mall this last fall, worked very well with our local law enforcement and our chief. do you want to briefly comment on your views on working with local law enforcement? >> thank you, senator. i think working with state and local law enforcement is hugely important. especially because there is so much on the fbi's plate right now that there needs to be partnership between the fbi and other federal law enforcement agencies and the state and locals and sort of a force
multiplier way. there is all kinds of support that fbi can provide to law enforcement, whether it is partnering on investigations, training, the national academy is a great thing that when i talked to people in state and local law enforcement, they consistently praise, i'm gratified by the support that has come in over the last several days from lots of state and local law enforcement organizations. and i think that's just a terribly important relationship because the reality is the threats we face are way too many for one agency, much less the fbi to do all by itself. >> i think director comey saw it that way as well. i had respect for how he worked for local law enforcement and appreciated your words about him. from time to time there have been proposals to split up the fbi's criminal and national security missions and remove matters like counterterrorism, counterespionage from the fbi's jurisdiction to kind of spin them off, some have advocated the creation of an american
version of the way the brits handled this. when this was discussed in the early 2000s and fbi director bob mueller rejected it, he said it would be a step backward. do you agree with his assessment about this type of proposal? >> senator, i remember being fairly actively involved in that issue back in the early 2000s, working with people at the fbi. i thought it was a terrible idea then. and it is hard for me to imagine circumstances have changed that would make me think it is a good idea now. i think the one thing we learned from 9/11 is about the danger of walls between criminal law enforcement and intelligence. and the idea of now splitting things up and creating new walls strikes me as just not the right way to go about it and my limited understanding in 2017 is that in the time that has passed since i left law enforcement, that other foreign agencies have started moving more in the
direction that we have. and i have great respect for our colleagues in the uk and their system, but i don't think that's the right model for us. >> thank you. election infrastructure, senator sasse raised this a bit, you look at what happened in this last election, what may happen going forward, one of the jobs of the fbi is to coordinate with the election assistance commission, to follow up on cyberattacks. and tell me you'll make this a priority moving forward and help us to prepare as we go into this next election. >> senator, i think the integrity of our elections has to be a very, very top priority, it is at the core of who we are as a country. and any threat, whether from a nation state, or a nonstate actor, needs to be taken very, very seriously and the fbi has a huge role in that. >> in a broader fashion, russian has vast criminal networks that the kremlin uses to sow