FBI Director Christopher Wray held a press conference Thursday to address the Justice Department’s (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) sometimes damning report on misconduct during the 2016 Hillary Clinton email investigation.
Touting the FBI’s high-profile criminal investigations, rescue operations, and other successes, Wray sought to defend the integrity of the nation’s premiere federal law enforcement agency in the face of findings that, among other misconduct, some employees attached to the investigation displayed inappropriate political biases, that Wray’s predecessor as FBI director James Comey “deviated” significantly from DOJ policy in his handling of the investigation, and that Comey had used a personal email in directing his agents.
“The OIG report makes clear we’ve got some work to do, but let’s also be clear on the scope of this report. It’s focused on a specific set of events back in 2016 and a small number of FBI employees connected to those events,” Wray insisted. “Nothing. Nothing in this report impunes the integrity of our workforce as a whole, or the FBI as an institution.”
“I want to be crystal clear about the FBI that I get to see,” Wray said, recounting his tours around field offices and outposts of the Bureau he has headed since August 2017. “In office after office, meeting after meeting, I see extraordinary people doing extraordinary work.”
After citing the report’s main conclusion that there were no identifiable instances of bias affecting major decisions surrounding the investigation of Hillary Clinton, Wray went on to say, “The report does identify errors of judgment, violations of or even disregard for policy, and decisions that, at the very least — with the benefit of hindsight — were not the best choices.”
“We’ve already started taking the necessary steps to address those issues,” Wray told reporters. “First, we’re going to hold employees accountable for any potential misconduct. We’ve already referred conduct highlighted in the report to our disciplinary arm … the FBI’s independent Office of Professional Responsibility.”
“We need to hold ourselves accountable for the choices we make and the work we do,” Wray said, explaining the FBI would “without delay” use the prescribed disciplinary procedures against those FBI agents and employees identified as engaging in biased or otherwise inappropriate conduct.
“When the process is complete, we won’t hesitate to hold people accountable for their actions,” Wray said.
Responding to a reporter’s question about the OIG report’s finding of a “culture of leaking,” he pointed to his introduction of a new stricter media policy and training to make “painfully clear to everybody that we won’t tolerate non-compliance.”
Wray refused to discuss the proceedings underway against specific personnel, including former counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok.
The FBI director vowed he and other senior officials would convene to lay out training materials for all FBI employees to “[drill] home the importance of objectivity” and “avoiding even the appearance of personal conflicts and political bias in our work.” He also announced he would initiate a review of how all sensitive investigations are handled in the future, including the staffing of those investigations.