Statement of Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler for the Hearing on “Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation”

Dec 7, 2017 Issues: Government Oversight, Law Enforcement, Trump

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  Welcome to the House Judiciary Committee, Director Wray. Earlier this week, in a message to your agents and employees, you gave us your vision of what the FBI is supposed to be:

“We find ourselves under the microscope each and every day—and rightfully so.  We do hard work for a living.  We are entrusted with protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution and laws of the United States.  Because of the importance of our mission, we are also entrusted with great power, and we should expect—and welcome—people asking tough questions about how we use that power.  That goes with the job and always has.”

I appreciate that sentiment.  But it cannot be a coincidence that you sent this message to your agents just hours after President Trump launched an online tantrum aimed largely at the Bureau as an institution and at individual agents.

Early Saturday morning, the President tweeted: “So General Flynn lies to the FBI and his life destroyed, while Crooked Hillary . . . lies many times . . . and nothing happens to her?  Rigged system, or just a double standard?”

He went on: “After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more) running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters—worst in History!”

These outbursts exemplify two key characteristics of the Trump Administration: a cheapening and coarsening of our dialogue, and baseless, but entirely predictable political attacks against Hillary Clinton, the Department of Justice, and the FBI.

I fear that this demeaning language has infected much of our work here on the Committee—and I suspect, Mr. Director, that many of my Republican colleagues will take a similar approach in attempting to shift the conversation away from questions they have largely ignored, like obstruction of justice, election security, and the rise in hate crimes.

Indeed, I predict that these attacks on the FBI will grow louder and more brazen as the special counsel does his work, and the walls close in around the President, and evidence of his obstruction and other misdeeds becomes more apparent.

In this moment, Director Wray, your responsibility is not only to defend the Bureau, but to push back against the President when he is so clearly wrong—both on the facts and as a matter of principle. 

When he says, “the FBI person really reports directly to the president of the United States,” it is your job to tell him that the Director of the FBI has reported to the Attorney General since the founding of the Bureau, and that Presidents should not comment on pending cases.

When he claims that you should focus on “Crooked Hillary” instead of his closest associates—or when my colleagues argue for a new special counsel to do the same—it is your responsibility to remind us that, absent sufficient evidence of a crime, there is no investigation to which a second special counsel can be assigned.

And when he tells you that you need to “clean house,” that your agents are “phony and dishonest,” and that your “reputation is in tatters” and the “worst in history,” you must do more than send a private email to your employees.  You must stand up to the President of the United States. 

As former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates has said: “The only thing in tatters is the President’s respect for the rule of law.  The dedicated men and women of the FBI deserve better.” Or as former Attorney General Eric Holder said: “You’ll find integrity and honesty at FBI headquarters and not at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue right now.”

Or as Thomas O’Connor, president of the FBI Agents Association, said: “the FBI continues to be the premier law enforcement agency in the world.  FBI agents are dedicated to their mission; suggesting otherwise is simply false.”

I am curious if you think their defense of the Bureau is wrong or misplaced, and I hope you will address the matter in your testimony today.

Your job requires you to have the courage to stand up to the President, Mr. Director.  That responsibility is far more than a matter of politics.  There are real consequences for allowing the President to continue unchecked in this manner.

For example, FBI statistics released last month show a marked increase in the rate of hate crimes in the United States.  Your data indicate 6,121 hate crimes against 7,615 victims last year alone.

Last week, about 70 of our colleagues wrote to me and to Chairman Goodlatte asking us “to convene immediate hearings to determine what can be done to stem the tide” of this violence.  I agree completely—this Committee should address the matter without delay. [Without objection, I ask that this letter be made part of the record.] 

I am certain that more than one factor is to blame for this rise in violence.  But I cannot help but look to a President who has tacitly—and sometimes explicitly—created an environment that is more hostile to the most vulnerable among us.

As a candidate, he denigrated women, characterized immigrants as rapists, and openly mocked the disabled. As President, he cracked a “Pocahontas” joke at a ceremony honoring the contributions of Native Americans; circulated unverified, anti-Muslim videos produced by far-right extremists; and asked us to remember the “very fine people” among the white nationalists at Charlottesville. 

According to reports, he has even resurrected the question of President Obama’s birthplace—a pernicious, racist lie from the start. President Trump has no moral authority to lead this country.  We are looking for leaders who do.  I hope that you will be among them, Director Wray.  I look forward to your testimony today.

I thank the Chairman, and I yield back.