Washington, D.C. — House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following statement during the House Judiciary Committee and Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s joint hearing on “Oversight of the FBI and DOJ Actions in Advance of the 2016 Elections.”
Chairman Goodlatte: We are here, following the release of Inspector General Horowitz’s highly-anticipated report, to shed light on decisions that have terribly tarnished the reputation of our chief law enforcement institutions and undermined Americans’ confidence in their justice system. Today we will examine irregularities and improprieties in the FBI and DOJ’s handling of two of the most sensitive investigations in the history of our country. And it all began with Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified emails.
The IG’s report has spawned more questions and more theories about the FBI and DOJ’s handling of the Clinton investigation. It confirms that Mrs. Clinton did, in fact, receive special treatment from the Obama Justice Department and FBI during their investigation – “Mid-Year Exam,” as it was known internally.
The American people often get tired of the political infighting in Washington, D.C. So I want to ask a simple question, “Why should Americans care about what we are talking about here today?” I propose a simple yet weighty answer: because our Constitution guarantees equality under the law. Americans expect that those with power and influence will not receive special treatment. But as the IG report describes, DOJ and FBI did not treat Mrs. Clinton like any other criminal suspect and did not follow standard investigative procedures in exonerating her. The IG found many issues with this particular investigation, as well as serious institutional issues. And while only telling half the story – we are still awaiting conclusions with respect to allegations of surveillance abuse inside the FBI – the IG identified various corrective actions, including recommending five additional FBI employees for further review and possible disciplinary consideration. In a nutshell, the IG report details unusual actions taken by law enforcement officials who were sworn to uphold the Constitution impartially and fairly. They failed in that duty.
Again, why should Americans care? The Department of Justice and the FBI are not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. Who is mentioned in the Constitution? The President and Congress. Yet a handful of individuals in these law enforcement institutions placed the constitutional institution of the Presidency under attack during a heated election, and mocked Congress’s legitimate, constitutionally-mandated oversight.
Equality under the law is a core American value. Our laws are to be administered and enforced with impartiality. The IG report confirms that this was not the case in the Clinton investigation. To quote from the report concerning certain individuals assigned to the investigation, “We found that the conduct of these five FBI employees brought discredit to themselves, sowed doubt about the FBI’s handling of the Midyear investigation, and impacted the reputation of the FBI…Moreover, the damage caused by their actions extends far beyond the scope of the Midyear investigation and goes to the heart of the FBI’s reputation for neutral fact-finding and political independence.” I am only repeating what the IG found – improprieties by the FBI and DOJ caused such far-reaching damage going “to the heart” of what is expected from agencies whose responsibility was to remain “fair administrators of justice.”
This hearing and the IG’s report underscores the importance of the ongoing joint investigation by the House Judiciary Committee and House Oversight Committee into decisions made by the DOJ and FBI in 2016. To date, the Committees have interviewed several key witnesses and reviewed thousands of documents. While we appreciate the IG and his staff for a very detailed investigation, it is critical for the public to also hear what was not included in the report due to the IG’s refusal to question “whether a particular decision by the FBI and DOJ was the most effective choice.” Here is what has been observed by these Committees:
- Questionable interpretation by DOJ and FBI of the law surrounding mishandling of classified information.
- Foreign actors obtained access to some of Mrs. Clinton’s emails – including at least one email classified “SECRET.”
- Director Comey appeared to have predetermined the exoneration of Mrs. Clinton at least two months before the investigation concluded.
- The Department of Justice determined any charge of “gross negligence” was off the table, reading an “intent” standard into the law that does not exist.
- Grotesque statements against then-candidate Donald Trump were made by top FBI officials, and they went so far as to say “we’ll stop” Trump from becoming President.
- Indiscretions involving Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page were not handled appropriately at the time FBI management learned of them, resulting in their continued assignment as key players on the Clinton Investigation and the Mueller Russia investigation.
- Mr. McCabe appears to have not been forthright with Congress during an interview conducted by the Committees concerning his knowledge of meetings and actions taken by Mr. McCabe and his team.
- The FBI’s top counterintelligence official was unaware of possible evidence indicating Mrs. Clinton’s private email server had been penetrated by a foreign adversary, and unaware of relevant legal process obtained during the investigation.
- Documents show significant criticism of Mr. Comey expressed by multiple current and former FBI agents.
- The FBI intentionally obscured the fact President Obama had communicated with Mrs. Clinton’s private email address by editing Mr. Comey’s final press statement, replacing “the President” with the euphemism “senior government official.”
- Finally, top FBI officials, including Mr. McCabe and Mr. Priestap, through their wives, had close ties to Democrat and Clinton-affiliated entities, and should have seemingly been recused from the Clinton investigation.
Public confidence in the impartiality of our law enforcement system is critical to ensure all are treated equally under the law. Fallout from the Clinton investigation, however, gives the impression those with money and influence are given lighter treatment than the so-called common person. Short-term damage to the FBI and DOJ’s reputations is apparent; however, the IG and Congress’ investigations will help to understand why certain deficiencies occurred during one of the most high profile investigations in this nation’s history. This hearing is a crucial step toward repairing law enforcement’s reputation as an impartial fact finder and seeker of truth.
I look forward to the Inspector General’s testimony today.