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Chairman Nadler Statement for FBI Oversight Hearing

Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, during an oversight hearing with Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray.

Video footage included in Chairman Nadler's opening statement can be viewed here.

"Thank you for being here today, Director Wray.

"The world has certainly changed since your last visit to the Committee.  When you were last here, the COVID-19 pandemic had not yet swept the globe, George Floyd was still alive, and we had not yet witnessed a terrorist attack on the United States Capitol.

"Given the important work of the FBI in bringing the perpetrators of that terrorist attack to justice, we have little choice in this hearing but to confront the reality of January 6 head on.

"And the reality is that, unlike past intelligence failures—where analysts might have failed to connect isolated pieces of classified information—we all saw this one coming.  The attack on the United States Capitol was planned in public view.  The events unfolded on cable news for all to see.  President Trump used the full media reach of the White House to convince his supporters that the election had been stolen, told them to gather in Washington on January 6, then stood on a public stage and directed them to march to the Capitol.

"Now, some of my Republican colleagues insist that we should push this unpleasant incident aside.  They would rebrand these traitors as mere 'tourists.'  They would rather we forget, or move on, or look the other way.  And how, exactly, our walls were breached that day may never be fully known, because those same Republicans continue to block the passage of a bipartisan bill to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the events of January 6.

"But the criminals who breached the Capitol, who attacked the police, and who sought to capture and murder our leadership, did so with the express purpose of disrupting our democracy. These were no 'tourists.'  They were insurrectionists.  And I, for one, will not simply look away.

"That attack is very much still with us, Director Wray. The threat is ongoing, and we need your help to do the work of reckoning with it.  For a start, we need to understand what the Bureau knew in the runup to the attack; when it knew it; and what prevented it from disrupting the work of the terrorists who planned it—because we know the attack was not a spontaneous event.

"The events of January 6 were largely choreographed in advance.  The attack was planned in the open on popular social media platforms.  Right wing militia groups trained for it.  Maps of the Capitol grounds circulated online long before the crowds arrived in Washington.  And, of course, President Trump and his allies had been whipping his supporters into a frenzy for weeks.  He urged them to march to the Capitol to “stop the steal.”  He told them their country would not survive the day unless they were willing to fight.  He promised them it would be 'wild.'

"According to the bipartisan Senate report released earlier this week, 'the FBI issued 15 intelligence products in 2020 related to domestic violent extremism, the last of which was issued on December 30 without any mention of the Joint Session of Congress or the Capitol.'  

"We need an explanation for that silence, Director Wray, because in the leadup to the attack, in report after report, your field agents tried to sound the alarm.  

"To be clear, Director Wray, I know that you take the attack on the Capitol as seriously as anybody and that, under your direction, the FBI is engaged in a massive undertaking to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice.

"But the FBI’s inaction in the weeks leading up to January 6 is simply baffling.  It is hard to tell whether FBI Headquarters merely missed the evidence—which had been flagged by your field offices and was available online for all the world to see—or whether the Bureau saw the intelligence, underestimated the threat, and simply failed to act.  Neither is acceptable. We need your help to get to the bottom of it.

"We also need your help to get at the root causes of the attack—the extremism and racism that, to be sure, has been with the nation since before its founding, but that former President Trump and others have encouraged and would exploit for political gain.

"This is not a rhetorical problem.  The threat of white nationalism and far-right extremism is very real.

"Studies show a surge of hate crimes plagues our country right now.  I know you to be a man of good conscience, Director Wray, and that you condemn these acts of hatred in the strongest possible terms.  

"But the time has come to put the resources of the Bureau where they belong.  A recent study found that “white supremacists and other like-minded extremists conducted two-thirds of the terrorist plots and attacks in the United States in 2020,” and the time has come for the FBI to confront this threat directly.  

"For too long, the FBI has downplayed the threat of white nationalism, focusing instead on far more distant threats and, occasionally, on imaginary threats like Black Identity Extremism.

"And although the FBI no longer uses that particular term, I am just as disturbed by the Bureau’s current practice of lumping together a wide range of activities under the term 'racially-motivated violent extremism'—as if there were any equivalence whatsoever between Black and brown activists marching for justice and the right-wing extremists who attacked the Capitol Police and tried to hang Mike Pence.  

"The FBI must prioritize this threat.  The Bureau cannot be afraid to call these groups by their names.  The Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, Neo-Nazis, and other, similar organizations pose an immediate threat to my colleagues, my constituents, and my family.

"And the FBI must also do the hard work of keeping itself honest.  Ample evidence shows that the crowd that stormed the Capitol was full of off-duty police and military personnel.  Accordingly, it is past time for the FBI to begin what the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon have already begun: a full, internal review of white supremacist membership within the Bureau. 

"I do not mean to downplay your service to the country during the chaotic last few years.  These have been trying times, and I can only imagine what it must be like to do your job in the shadow of a President who reportedly threatened to fire you for your refusing to launch baseless investigations of his political opponents.

"In particular, I want to commend the Bureau for its work on the security of our election systems.  The FBI is charged with preventing both mechanical meddling and disinformation campaigns.  Your work to secure the 2020 election led to one of the most secure elections in our lifetime—and we owe you a debt of gratitude.

"I look forward to hearing more from you on how the Bureau will continue to secure voting systems and to safeguard the right to vote next November. 

"That work is critical because, at base, trust in our democracy is what keeps our country vibrant and strong.  Faith in our democratic institutions binds diverse people with different values and different backgrounds together in common cause.  In the wake of the insurrection, nothing could be more important in your work, or mine, than rebuilding that trust.

"Thank you again for being here today. I look forward to your testimony."
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