Transcript for FBI director reacts to IG report on Russia investigation
Officer for thank you for your time we greatly appreciated. The first question I have is in regard to the inspector general. Is he someone respecting you think that he has produced a fair and thoughtful report. I've known inspector general through a variety of context for awhile. And considered him to be straight shooter professional. And this report. I think was very thorough and comprehensive. I think it covered something like over a million documents and maybe 170 different witness interviews so was extremely. Rigorous review and I respect it. Two major buckets of the review if you if you will pocket number one deals with. That was the launch. The origination of the FBI probe into Russian interference involving US citizens. Lawfully authorized in pursuit. The inspector general. Basically comes to conclusions it was a low threshold for that but that the procedures were followed and that it was authorize legally. Your thought about that and why is that report. I think it's important. For the American people than those that when the FBI opens an investigation it does so with proper medication. With proper authorization. Based along the facts and nothing else. And I think. It's important that the inspector general found that. In this particular instance the investigation. Was opened. With appropriate provocation. And authorization. So the FBI did not spy on the front campaign. Well that's not a term at the FBI we use to describe a work. I would say that we're entrusted with significant. Investigative tools and authorities. And I think it's essential the key question is whether we're doing it by the book and that's when I expect. Of all of our employees. The inspector general found that the FBI. Did not use Andy human sources or under cover employees. To go inside the campaign ward to ask them to report on campaign I think that's important. And in your issue with the words buying that denotes something illegal. And what you're saying is that there's no evidence that the FBI did certain illegal surveillance. From campaigns for. Well again different people have different colloquial terms. We use terms like investigations surveillance. But again the key question is are we doing those things by the book and that's what we expect all of our folks. In this instance the inspector general found any number of things that we need to do better on and I'm committed to making sure that we do just that. As you said director the FBI. Is a renowned agency and has extraordinary powers. So it's very important to prospective the American public has the correct as far as you know based on the findings in the inspector general report. The FBI was a part of something state. Well I think that's a colonel Abel that is a disservice to the 37000. Men and women who work at the FBI who. I think tackle their jobs was with professionalism with rigor. With objectivity. In with courage. So that's not a term I would ever use to describe our workforce and I think it's an affront to them having said that. Having said that there are a number of things in this report. That in my view fall well short. Of the standard of conduct and performance that we and that I expect the Lawler employees and we're going to be taken a number of corrective steps. To address that you have repeatedly said the investigation was now with time do you stand by. Yes I do not that the investigation which as far as the Carter page. Application of five's of more application. That's were the inspector general did have a number of what I would describe as pretty searing findings. But let me predicates X number one he said. They found no evidence of intentional political bias or intentional misconduct in terms of seeking the apple case. He found that the Justice Department. Properly approved. The fire as a worn in accordance to DOJ standards. But he did single out omissions and areas by FBI officials. That. Would have played or could have played a role in terms of the assessment of DOJ attorneys. Approving the five's award. How concerned are you about those errors in emissions. And how significant were they. Well I I I would characterize in the errors or omissions or inaccuracies. In a five's applications as important to me. We take very seriously these authority that we're entrusted with. Under five's which is an absolutely indispensable tool that is keeping 325 million Americans safe every day. And our ability to use that tool to keep them safe is dependent on us making sure that we. Are providing the court with all the information it needs to make a probable cause determination just the legal standard for those applications so. In my view every error omission is significant and something we need answers. And how concerned were you when you saw that there were a number of these areas in emissions and the related to steal dossier many of them. Related to still dossier. Not to your standard. In my view there are actions described in this report that I consider unacceptable. And un representative who we are as an institution. And what steps have you taken to ensure that that doesn't happen in the future. So I have ordered forty over forty corrective steps to implement every recommendation. Inspector general's report and then to go beyond that in terms of additional. Improvements. They cover a lot of different categories but one would be a number of modifications. To defies a process he's all designed to ensure. The completeness and accuracy. Of all of our applications. And to ensure that the court has all the information it needs to have to make the proper legal judgment. Sack and were making a lot of changes to our confidential human source program. Which is something that we rely on very heavily again to keep Americans safe. And so those are designed to make sure that were better able to assess the information that human sources are giving us. Third were. Implementing new training for all of our folks who deal with these defies or human sources. Designed to make sure they learned the lessons some of the changes we're making I already instituted. Annual ethics training which is something that had apparently gone by the wayside. Before I arrived as director and so ivory instituted that. So they're number things like that we're doing were also. Going to be changing our protocols to ensure that investigations. Except in the rarest of circumstances a run out in the field. Not at headquarters. Were also taking steps to address our participation. In transition briefings to. Presidential nominees. To ensure that those are done for national security purposes and not for investigative purposes and then. Think the last thing I would say which is important. Is that woo we have longstanding process these to address employee performance and employee conduct. And we're gonna take a look at those issues and if there's disciplinary actions warranted will take it. Director as you sit here now having ripped report and study. Was the Carter paid spas award legitimately of today. Well I'm not gonna offer a legal opinion I would say the inspector general clearly found omissions and inaccuracies in those applications. And that's below the standard that I expect. Of our employees. I will also say inspector general. Doesn't speculate and goes takes great pains to say that he's not going to speculate as to whether or not the court would have found probable cause. Even with the information. But amen to defer the legal judgment is the Justice Department. Court. As we sit here right now. Do you have any evidence that the FBI targets trump campaign unfairly. I don't. In terms your bureau. That you inherited. The inspector general suggested that the senior officials top to bottom. And some other officials. In regard to the fires award did not. Have the proper controls. That one would have expected do you agree with that assessment. Well as I said you know we and I except all the inspector general's conclusions. And all of its recommendations. It's important for people to know though that this examination this inspector general report. Look at one very specific investigation with four options. Covering about ten month time period in 20162017. Involving a very limited number of employees Manny if not most of whom no longer even work at the FBI. You took action against some of those employees well Wheaton and number some of them left on their own others left under other circumstances but we are 37000. Person organization. That this thousands of investigations every year to keep. 325 million Americans safe and we've been around 411 years so. Is a serious report we take extremely seriously but it does not impugn the integrity FBI. As a whole or workforce across the war. So you believe in the integrity absolute. And I say that. I say that based on actually having Ben. To all 56 of our field offices having ban and met with and listen to. Law enforcement leaders from all fifty states from foreign counterparts from over fifty countries. From Matt having met with business leaders and community leaders I met with prosecutors and judges all over the country. And those victims and their families and the feedback. I get from all those interactions is consistent which is the FBI today is better and stronger and more helpful and it's ever been. You know we live and a really partisan town and you try to with that as much as you can. There will be supporters of president. Who say this is indicative of a broken FBI goodbyes to be. How are you going to respond to that when it comes out. Well we take constructive criticism when it comes. And unfair criticism we let washed off our backs. As I said I look at the FBI that I see which is hard working men and women all across the country and to large extend around the world. Working their tails off to keep millions and millions of American people save and I would look at the work that we actually do. And make my judgments based on that. Just in the last few months alone. We've disrupted. Terrorist that would be terrorist attacks in big cities like Las Vegas in small towns like label Colorado we've. Think over the last year were recovered over 15100. Kids. From child sex act with patient trafficking abduction. We've arrested I think something like 7400. Violent gang members over a year mean just last week. There was about a two day period where. We arrested over fifty Latin kings gang members in New England another thirty. Gang members of a different gang and Oklahoma eleven Gambino Crime Family members in New York. A Florida guy for circulating bomb making videos. On behalf of vices and two Russian hackers for a global malware conspiracy impacting thousands of people that's just a tiny slice of our work over about a 48 hour period. So do we make mistakes do we have failings absolutely like anybody who's human does. But the key is how we learn from and I'm determined to make sure that we respond to the mistakes are failings that are identified in this report. In a way that is robust. And serious but not major. And and one last question just regarding these the class application for page. Is it possible that Steele was manipulated by the Russians and how concerned are you that the Justice Department attorneys wife who was associated with the democratic efforts is connected to the dossier. Should it have been used at all. Well I guess I would say this any time we rely on confidential human sources. It is important for us to be mindful. All of there. Diocese of potential agendas. As the inspector general's report itself. Notes with respect to steal. It's merely because a soars has some kind of advisory agenda doesn't mean we should ignore their information but we need to. Approach it in a way that's responsible and rigors. And careful. If perception of the FB is very important. And when you look at that Lisa page and Peter struck aspect of the report. The fact that there you had text messages which were so negative about then candidate from. Topic a damaged it. That painted a reputation the FB but once that came out and how you repair. That kind of damage. Well I think it's important for the American people to be confident that when the FBI acts to protect them. We're gonna do right each time it every time and that means not just actually being objective. But making sure mindful of the appearance of objectivity to inspector general did not find. That political bias or improper motivations. Impacted the decision to open. The Russian interference investigation or the decisions to use. Certain investigative tools in the investigation. But that doesn't and the inquiry for me what's important to me is I make sure we make sure that we're doing everything by the book. Bias for no lives. And you know the president has had a lot to say about this but is it not fear for him to have been suspicious. That people like Payton struck may have been out together. Well I'm not gonna speak to other people's suspicions. The audit that was requested by. The inspector general to look at procedures related to the buzz award. Taking you'll get. He'll get complete cooperation from the department. From the B I've read. Absolutely we fully cooperated. With this review. And Lou fully cooperate with any follow on audit that the inspectors. And then finally on that report so what's the biggest take away the most important takeaways from the report for you. Life is a number of take aways that are important one that we fully cooperated. With this independent review to do we fully accept its findings and recommendations. Three that the inspector general did not find. Political bias for improper motivations impacting the opening. Of the investigation. Or the decision to use certain investigative tools during investigations. Including. Including five's. But that the inspector general did fine. A number of instances where employees. Either failed follow our policies. Neglected to news exercise appropriate diligence or in some other way. Fell short of the standard of conduct and performance that we and then i.'s director expect of all of our employees. But again. We are and I am ordering forty over forty corrective actions to address all of those things in way that's robust and serious. And we're determined to learn the lessons from this report and make sure the FB emerges from this even better strong. The one thing we don't want people lose sight of these Russia. Which is the Genesis of all of this. How significant was or attack on the 2016 election. And are they still had it in if so how. Well we take Russia's efforts to interfere with the last election last presidential election extremely. Seriously. I think any effort by any nation state. Or any non state actor to try to interfere with our democratic institutions. Is something that we should and do take extremely seriously. Even as we speak even as we're sitting here. The Russians continue. In their efforts to engage in what I would call malign foreign influence. Which is an effort to so divisive ness and discord to sow distrust. In our democratic institutions through propaganda. Disinformation. You know various uses of social media. False personas. Make Sadr and that's something that is not just an election cycle threat it's something that continues 365 days a year. And that's why I created foreign influence task force shortly after becoming director so that I could make sure we're tackling this with all of our other partners. In a very intense. And thoughtful way. So you're saying you're trying to address a trip to threaten its yes and a hot or yes it's a very. What other countries. Do you. Fear or are concerned about with the upcoming 22 point presidential election. Well it. Ours the election itself goes we think Russia represents the most significant. A threat to the election cycle itself. But we certainly know that other nations states China Iran. Others. Have an interest in influencing. Our democracy in other ways. Through different forms of engagement different types of maligned far and flow so. We are trying to make sure they were working hard with others to protect. America against all of us did the government of Ukraine directly interfere in the -- 1016 election on the scale through assisted. We have no information. That indicates the Ukraine interfered with the 2016. Financial. When you see politician is pushing this notion are you concerned about that in terms of its impact on the American public. Well look there's all kinds of peoples and all kinds of things out there. I think it's important for the American people to be thoughtful consumers of information. To think about the sources of it to think about the support. And provocation for what they hear. And I think part of us being well protected against malign foreign influence. Is to build together. An American public that's resilient. That has appropriate media literacy. And the takes its information with a grain of salt. And couldn't has been pushing this theory. And your message to him in the head in terms the American public. Stop trying to interfere with our elections we recently heard from the president himself that he wanted the crowd strike portion of this whole. Conspiracy in the Ukraine investigated. And I and I'm hearing you say there's no evidence to support that as far as you. As us that we have no we it the FBI have no. Information that would indicate it Ukraine tried to interfere in the two sixteenth presidential. Said the presence out listening to review. About this issue. What the president keep his own. And has Rudy Giuliani asked you to or the FBI to investigate these allegations involving Ukraine and northern Biden's. I haven't had any congress' preaches. And has the president asked you to investigate the Biden's or any political opponent. Now. The president said that. The FBI spied on him. He's promoted. Some of the Ukraine conspiracies. At least to be investigated. Are you able to persuade him that some of these things are just props and can you describe your relationship with president. Law I've been committed since day one to having a professional. Relationship with the president which I think is the kind of relationship and the FBI direction I was any president that's been true. Since my confirmation hearing and it's true as we are sitting here tonight. And when he says things like when you said. That. You didn't agree with the assessment of the attorney general. That there was spying by the FBI on his campaign he called your assessment ridiculous. How he responded I would do not respond to. I think my responsibility. Is to stay focused on our work. And to speak truthfully and completely about the information I have to call balls and strikes. I think that's what people expected the FBI director that's what the gun again. In terms. The impeachment proceedings and on the way bribery. Allegations of obstruction of justice are being tossed about. Has the FB I've been blocked in terms of pursuing any aspect of the Ukraine allegations that you deem worthy of investigation. Well I'm I'm knock on. Comment on the impeachment process which is a under our constitutional political process between the congress and executive branch. From the FBI's and I'm determined to make sure that we open our investigations based only on the law and the facts and our policies. And that hasn't changed is not an option. And I and I take it from you that you want foreign governments to stay out of our elections I would be a fair assessment correct. I think foreign governments need to stay out of our election and I I have to ask this question because the president said openly. That China might want to investigate the Biden's. That Ukraine. Officials might want to investigate the book Biden's. I take it that that's not. The kind of thing that you would endorse. Well I'm not gonna comment on on any specific person statements I would just say. That it's the FBI's responsibility to investigate Americans for potential violations of American law. That's what we're here for that's our job soon and will do. Who would regard to Pensacola can you give us an update on. While the FBI suspects a terrorism might have been involved any threat to the community any evidence. Of collaborators. Well first about Pensacola. And we say mind heart goes out to the victims. Both those who were killed and those who wounded. I my gratitude goes out to those certain showed such bravery in running to the gunfire. As far as our investigation we are investigating this as an act of terrorism. We have deployed. I think something like 300 personnel searched them to the location where others investigative technical. Evidence response laboratory person now victim services like Saturn. And at the moment the investigation is very fluid and active and on calling. I probably shouldn't be commenting on the latest state of play enters the fact well. But as far as you know no imminent threat to public. And we're not aware of any threat to the public Atmel. Thank you so much.
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