Washington, D.C. –Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement during an oversight hearing with Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray:
"Thank you, Director Wray, for being here.
"Although we have a great deal of ground to cover today, nearly every topic we discuss will be linked to two questions:How is the FBI working to address some of the most serious threats to our nation? And, when it falls short, how is the Bureau working to correct its course and live up to our ideals?
"The FBI is filled with brave, devoted public servants, who work hard to keep us safe from threats both foreign and domestic.
"But it is clear that more work needs to be done to shore up public confidence in the Bureau.
"The FBI’s jurisdiction is broad. Among other critical matters, the FBI is responsible for election security, criminal and counterterrorism investigations, our fight against domestic terrorism, and oversight of our public servants. I’d like to talk about each of these in a bit more detail.
"First, we are heading toward the 2020 elections. There is nothing more important than ensuring that each and every American has confidence in the integrity of his or her vote.
"As you have warned us, foreign attacks on our elections continue to this day. You recently stated, quote, 'Russia represents the most significant threat to the election cycle itself.' And, other nation states, including China and Iran, may have an interest in our next election, too.
"We must be unified in our fight against anyone who tries to undermine the very foundations of our democracy. Our priority should be preventing and deterring any of our adversaries from attacking us ever again. And when attacks do happen, we must respond swiftly. Our democracy depends on it.
"Now, some have tried to deflect the attention from the clear evidence of Russia’s attack in 2016 because it does not suit them politically.
"In a recent interview, Director Wray, you confirmed that these alternative theories have no evidentiary support. For example, there is no real evidence to suggest that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked into the Democratic National Committee’s computer networks.
"We know the evidence—we know who our allies are, and we know our adversaries. Now, we must work with our allies, and come together as a nation to protect our voting systems from our enemies.As you testify today, I will be listening for how the FBI plans to counter these threats and secure our elections.
"I will also be listening for your plans to counter attempts to undermine the integrity of our elections from within.
"I am deeply concerned that every time the inter-agency team tasked with securing our elections takes a significant step forward, President Trump undercuts that progress with a statement or a Tweet that spreads misinformation or directly invites our adversaries to meddle.
"You may not be able to control the content of the President’s Twitter account, but our government has an obligation to be unified in protecting every American’s right to vote from anyone who threatens to undermine that right.
"Second, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is a tool entrusted to the government to protect our country. This Committee’s job is to make certain that your use of that tool complies with the law and with our commitment to privacy and civil liberties.
"On December 9 of last year, the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General released a report entitled Review of Four FISA Applications and Other Aspects of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane Investigation.
"The Inspector General has found deep and systemic problems with how the FBI has used the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to target United States citizens.
"The report found 'basic, fundamental, and serious errors' in the process designed to ensure the factual accuracy of information presented to the court.
"In so doing, the Bureau 'fell short of what is rightfully expected from a premier law enforcement agency entrusted with such an intrusive surveillance tool.'
"Simply put, the FBI failed to live up to its responsibilities.
"And that requires action. Congress must address these systemic failures if we are to leave such a powerful tool in the hands of the FBI.
"I am encouraged, Director Wray, that you have volunteered to make dozens of important changes to address the findings of the Inspector General—but a recent submission by a court-appointed amicus suggests that new procedures, new checklists, and new training modules may simply not be enough to address the problem.
"This Committee has a responsibility to renew certain aspects of FISA in the coming weeks.
"Having read the report, I feel strongly that we must address these problems in that legislation without delay.
"I want to thank the Gentleman from Wisconsin, Mr. Sensenbrenner, among others, for encouraging us to wait until after the Inspector General released his report to take up this matter.
"Now, some have suggested that the report provides evidence of a far-reaching left-wing conspiracy to remove the President. That is simply not true.
"The Inspector General—and I’m quoting—'did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the decisions to open the four individual investigations.'
"At bottom, the report documents important issues that affect the sacred liberties of American citizens—I hope that we can focus on those substantive issues, where we are bound to find common ground, and not derail our conversation with long-debunked conspiracy theories.
"Third, we must address the sad and frightening resurgence of white supremacy and other forms of nativist extremism that plagues our country.
"The FBI’s most recent hate crimes statistics are a testament to the rise of anti-Semitic violence. 2018 marked the deadliest year of anti-Semitic attacks in American history.
"Hate crimes attacks against LGBT individuals and Latinos were also markedly up in 2018.
"These grave statistics demand a swift and immediate response, starting with the FBI’s making concerted efforts to improve hate crime statistics reporting.
"Recent state and federal prosecutions have shown that white supremacist groups are increasingly coordinating their messaging beyond our borders. Through social media, white supremacists are spreading their message of hate inspiring attacks both at home and abroad.
"This growing problem hits close to home.
"The Anti-Defamation League’s Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents reported more than 1,800 acts in 2018, one of the highest totals since it began tracking such incidents 40 years ago. In New York City alone, the NYPD reported more anti-Jewish incidents in 2019 than all other hate crimes put together.
"So as you testify today, Director Wray, I will be listening for how the FBI is working to address this threat—and, in particular, whether the Bureau has properly prioritized white supremacy and similar forms of domestic terrorism over other threats that pose far less immediate risk to our nation. Concrete steps are needed now to address the rising tide of hate.
"Finally, the FBI’s investigations are meant to be independent from political influence. That is critical, especially as it relates to your investigations of public servants.
"And to that end, Director Wray, I expect that you will take a moment to provide the American public with an explanation for the Bureau’s role in Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.
"To be clear, I have no intention of re-litigating the confirmation process here.
"But there remains a great deal of mistrust and uncertainty around the FBI’s 'supplemental background check' of Justice Kavanaugh during the last few days of that confirmation.
"The country needs a better understanding of that process. For example, I expect to hear what it means for the Bureau to take direction from a client agency—in this case, the White House—when it conducts a background check of this nature.
"If that process is as strictly curtailed as I believe it to be, then the country can—at the very least—approach the next high-profile confirmation with its eyes open.
"As you are about to see, Director Wray, many of our members—on both sides of the aisle—feel quite passionately about these and other issues.
"My hope is that we will enter these discussions with the same goals: fulfilling our duty to uphold our country’s values, providing oversight of this agency, ensuring increased transparency for the American people, and working toward solutions that are best for all of us as a nation.
"We have great respect for the manner in which you have led the FBI these past years, and even greater respect for the men and women of the Bureau.
"I look forward to your testimony."