FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before the House Judiciary Committee in his first hearing since President Donald Trump's attacks on the agency.
Wray's testimony came days after President Donald Trump tweeted that the former director James Comey left the FBI's reputation "in tatters," prompting Wray to send out a morale-boosting memo to the bureau's 35,000 employees.
WASHINGTON — FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday in his first congressional hearing since he was confirmed to replace former FBI Director James Comey in August.
Wray's testimony came days after President Donald Trump tweeted that Comey left the FBI's reputation "in tatters," prompting Wray to send out a morale-boosting memo to the bureau's 35,000 employees.
"There is no shortage of opinions out there," Wray said in his testimony. "What I can tell you is tens of thousands of agents and analysts and staff working their tails off to keep Americans safe from the next terrorist attack, gang violence, child predators, spies from Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. The FBI that I see is tens of thousands of brave men and women who are working as hard as they can to keep people that they will never know safe from harm."
Breaking with longstanding precedent, Trump did not attend Wray's swearing-in ceremony in September.
The committee's chairman, Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte, echoed Trump's remark that Comey had damaged the FBI's reputation.
"You have a unique opportunity to repair the damage done by Comey to the FBI," Goodlatte said in an opening statement. He asserted that the bureau's decision not to recommend charges against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server showed that "our nation's system of justice applies differently to the rich, powerful, and well-connected than to anyone else."
He expressed dismay that he the Justice Department has not yet appointed "a second special counsel to review the voluminous unresolved inconsistencies and perceived improprieties" that arose during the Clinton email investigation.
Goodlatte also took a shot at special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia's election interference.
"We do not know the magnitude of insider bias on Mr. Mueller's team," he said.
Trump's rocky relationship with the FBI reached a tipping point when he fired Comey in May over "the Russia thing," according to remarks he made in an interview days later with NBC's Lester Holt. Trump had asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to outline reasons why Comey was not fit to lead the bureau, which he then used as justification to fire him.
Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler, the committee's ranking member, predicted that Trump's attacks on the FBI will grow louder as Mueller "closes in" on the White House. Nadler implored Wray to push back on those attacks.
If Trump targets the bureau again, Nadler said, "Your job is to stand up to the president of the United States."
"Your job requires you to have the courage in these circumstances to stand up to the president. ... There are real consequences in allowing the president to continue his attacks on the FBI," he said.
Wray started by saying that it is "the honor of a lifetime" to represent the men and women of the FBI.
"There is no finer institution than the FBI, and no finer people than the people who work there and represent its beating heart," Wray said. "I am both humbled and inspired to be back in public service working alongside them."
"There is no shortage of opinions out there," Wray said, when asked by Nadler about Trump's comments. "The FBI I see is tens of thousands of agents, analysts, and staff working their tails off to keep Americans safe."
Wray deflected when asked by Goodlatte about news that a former FBI agent, Peter Strzok, softened the language used by Comey in a press conference announcing the conclusion of the Cinton email probe. Wray said the Inspector General is looking into it.
Strzok also sent text messages that could be perceived as anti-Trump before joining Mueller's team of investigators examining Russia's election interference. Asked about that, Wray also deferred to the inspector general.