Gerry Connolly on House Oversight Committee hearing on Department of Justice IG report

Gerry ConnollyCongressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Vice Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, comments on the hearing with the House Committee on the Judiciary on the Department of Justice Inspector General’s report on FBI activities prior to the 2016 election.

“On June 14, the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released the report, “A Review of Various Actions by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice in Advance of the 2016 Election.” After 18 months, 1.2 million documents, and more than 100 interviews, the OIG has issued a welcome vetting of the concerns surrounding the FBI’s unprecedented influence on the 2016 presidential election. The report recounts significant transgressions on the part of former FBI Director James Comey almost exclusively to the detriment of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the presidency. The report throws cold water on anti-Clinton fever swamps by concluding that Secretary Clinton did not benefit from political bias on the part of FBI officials. And the report sends a clear message about the dangers of political interference into law enforcement investigations that should serve as a cautionary tale for those attacking Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation.

“There is no way around it. Former FBI Director Comey’s misconduct and profoundly bad judgment helped elect Donald Trump President of the United States. The DOJ OIG found that Mr. Comey’s handling of the investigation into Secretary Clinton’s email practices violated FBI policy, practice, and protocol. Mr. Comey usurped the authority of the Attorney General through his unilateral announcements on July 5 and October 28. Mr. Comey should not have characterized uncharged conduct by former Secretary Clinton. Mr. Comey applied a double standard to the investigations of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump by disclosing details of one and not the other. And Mr. Comey demonstrated a “serious error of judgement” when he made public announcements about an ongoing investigation just days before the 2016 election. Furthermore, when Mr. Comey unveiled his October surprise, he neglected to disclose that the FBI had sat on the pertinent information for nearly a month before making an urgent and high-profile disclosure in the waning days of the election. It is all the more maddening that the information in question amounted to nothing. Unfortunately, the damage was already done.

“This is not a good report for President Trump and the “Lock Her Up” crowd. The DOJ OIG “found no evidence that the conclusions by Department prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations.” Rather the decision not to prosecute Secretary Clinton was “based on the prosecutors’ assessment of the facts, the law, and past Department practice.” These conclusions undermine the central tenets of their conspiracy theories and should silence their rabid attacks on the rule of law.

“However, President Trump and Congressional Republicans will no doubt continue their assault on Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation in the same way they attacked the FBI and Department of Justice throughout the Clinton email investigation. The attacks and constant lies by President Trump and his closest associates, beg the question – what are they afraid of? The Special Counsel has secured 5 guilty pleas and issued 17 indictments – to include President Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort, deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, and former National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn.

“In the coming months, we can expect immense political pressure on Special Counsel Mueller. There are already unfounded calls to disband the investigation, and the President and his lawyers are openly discussing pardons. But among the most important lessons of the OIG’s report “is the need for the Department and FBI leadership to follow its established procedures and policies even in its highest-profile and most challenging investigations.” That is what we must insist upon amid the storm that lies ahead – a stubborn adherence to process in the pursuit of justice.

“The Special Counsel must be allowed to complete his investigation free from political pressure or interference. As FBI Director Christopher Wray stated yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, an investigation is over “when the work is done.” President Trump is currently wanted by the Special Counsel for questioning. Clearly, there is still work to be done.”

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