At the House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing Thursday morning, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) told FBI Director Chrisopher Wray that he takes “second place to no one” in holding the bureau in high esteem, but hinted that his patience with the Justice Department is wearing thin.
The congressman didn’t have any questions for the FBI director, but did want to get a number of problematic issues off his chest.
“Unfortunately, the last two years have not been good years for the bureau and they have not been good years for the department,” Gowdy said. He spent the next several minutes ticking off a series of events that have seriously eroded the trust of the American people in both the FBI and DOJ.
“We had an attorney general meet with the spouse of a target of an investigation on the tarmac and asked that the investigation be called something other than an investigation — but be called a matter,” he began.
“We’ve had an attorney general recuse himself from the largest, most significant investigation currently in his office. We had the director of the FBI appropriate a major charging decision away from the Department of Justice because he was concerned that the public wouldn’t have confidence if the Department of Justice handled that decision themselves. We had an FBI director write two politically volatile letters weeks before an election.”
Gowdy continued: “We had an FBI director memorialize conversations he had with the president of the United States because he didn’t trust the president’s recall of those conversations.” He pointed out that when Comey didn’t trust the president, he leaked one of those memos to prompt the appointment of a special counsel.
“When he didn’t have confidence in Loretta Lynch, we didn’t hear a word about it,” he noted. “There were no leaks that prompted special counsel when he didn’t trust Loretta Lynch. There were leaks when he decided he didn’t trust President Trump,” he complained.
“We’ve had an acting AG fired, we’ve had the director of the FBI fired, and we can’t manage to find prosecutors who haven’t donated to presidential candidates. Out of all the universe of prosecutors … we can’t find a dozen that haven’t donated to major political candidates.”
Gowdy then turned to FBI agent Peter Strzok, the pro-Hillary partisan who was taken off the Mueller investigation after anti-Trump text messages were discovered. “It shouldn’t have been the inspector general that had to bring this to our attention 12 months after it happened,” Gowdy argued. “And that same agent is the one who reportedly interviewed Sec. Clinton in an interview that you and I have never seen conducted that way before. To have potential witnesses and potential targets sit in on a witness interview … it’s unprecedented!”
Gowdy noted Strzok is also the agent who allegedly changed the language. “You’re right, they ARE synonyms,” he told Wray.
“Extremely careless is a synonym for grossly negligent, which begs the question — why change it? But you and I know why it was changed. It was changed because the statute says grossly negligent and if you’re not going to charge someone, God knows you don’t want to track the statute with the language that you use! That would be stupid!” he exclaimed.
“What’s also stupid is to do that memo two months before you interview the target,” he added. “That memo was drafted before the last witness was interviewed. It was drafted before the target of the interview was even interviewed! Which makes people wonder, was the decision made before the interviews were finished?”
“And now we believe that same agent is also involved in the investigation into President Trump and his campaign, and may have interviewed Michael Flynn,” said Gowdy, acknowledging that that information has not been confirmed. “And we don’t know what role if any he took in the preparation of documents for court filings.”
He concluded by telling the FBI director that it is important for him to answer the committee’s questions and their fellow citizens’ questions and to get back to work caring “not a whit about politics.”