WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions said today that “fairness and justice” should be applied to personnel matters when enforcing “the highest standards of behavior” at the FBI.
Special counsel Robert Mueller removed FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page from his team in July after the Justice Department’s inspector general discovered numerous text messages exchanged between the pair, who were engaged in an extramarital affair, that made disparaging remarks about President Trump, former Attorney General Eric Holder, and former Democratic Party presidential contenders Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.
“The decision to remove Mr. Strzok off that case was made by Director Mueller, based upon the circumstances known to him,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told the House Judiciary Committee this week. “…I’ve discussed this general issue with Director Mueller on several occasion. He understands the importance of ensuring that there’s no bias reflected in the conduct of the investigation.”
Outside the White House today, Trump said that “it’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI, but we’re going to rebuild the FBI and it’ll be bigger and better than ever.”
At a Justice Department press conference today, Sessions said his team “will not be reluctant to admit error” and “will never fail to monitor our people and we’re going to insist on the highest standards of behavior.”
“Everybody has to be accountable and responsible. You can have arrogance seep into, sometimes, an institution, and that’s not acceptable. So we want to be open to the public and we’re going to go as far as we can to do that. There are limits in that regard,” he said. “We’re not able to just reveal anything in every criminal case that may be percolating here, nor in every potential personnel matter. We’ve got active and strong activity being carried out this very moment by our inspector general.”
“We also have the professional standards group that watches and monitors our highest possible standards of behavior by our people. So we take that very seriously, and I would just say we intend to monitor our people to maintain high standards,” Sessions added. “But I got to tell you, sometimes things that might appear to be bad in the press have more innocent explanations. And so fairness and justice should also be provided to our personnel.”
Trump recently said that the FBI’s reputation is “in tatters” and its standing with the public was the “worst in history.” Sessions was asked if he agreed.
“I don’t share the view that the FBI is not functioning at a high level all over the country,” the attorney general replied.