Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today defended the FBI against claims of bias and raised concerns about election interference in the 2020 elections. Feinstein also questioned FBI Director Wray about the bureau’s counterintelligence assessments into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
Video of her remarks is available here.
“It’s been nearly two years since you were confirmed to run the FBI, so we have a lot of important topics to cover.
During this time, democracy and the rule of law have come under attack. Foreign governments have interfered in United States elections and continue to conduct influence campaigns that are designed to divide Americans along racial, religious, and political lines.
The president has declared that he has an “absolute right” to control the Justice Department, that the executive branch is immune from congressional oversight, and that Americans who disagree with him can “go back” to where they came from.
Over the past two years, the president has attacked the FBI, describing the bureau in tweets as “corrupt” and full of “dirty cops.” He has also suggested that the FBI is part of a “deep state,” and politically biased against him.
It’s my view that these claims are false and that they’re harmful. They undermine public confidence in the FBI’s ability to enforce the law impartially, which you do. Internal employee surveys show that while morale was high in 2016 under former Director Comey, it has declined in 2017 after the president fired the director and began publicly attacking the bureau.
While the president has claimed that the FBI’s investigation of his campaign’s possible coordination with Russia “was started illegally,” the Mueller report confirms that there was a legitimate and lawful reason to open the investigation.
The Mueller report explains that the FBI started investigating possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in response to information provided by a foreign government shortly after WikiLeak’s started releasing documents stolen by Russia from the DNC.
The Mueller reports further explains that in late July 2016, shortly after WikiLeaks’ first started releasing information stolen by Russia from DNC computers, Australia told the FBI that months earlier, Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos had told Australia’s top diplomat in Britain that Russia had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails” and that Russia had indicated that it could help the Trump campaign by releasing these stolen emails to damage candidate Clinton.
In fact, the Mueller report concluded the Trump campaign welcomed, encouraged and “expected to benefit electorally” from Russia’s efforts.
We should be grateful for the work that law enforcement does to stop foreign governments from interfering in U.S. elections. This is especially true now with another presidential election ahead.
We know that Russia’s efforts are ongoing, and that other foreign powers will not hesitate to exploit opportunities to interfere in our elections and democracy.
You have warned us, Director Wray, that Russia is “adapting and upping their game,” and have described Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2018 midterm elections as a “dress rehearsal for the big show in 2020.”
You have also stated that “enormous strides” have been made since 2016 to protect our elections.
So, I ask you to give us a frank assessment today of how prepared we are—in particular, at state and local levels—to identify and address foreign interference in the 2020 election, and, moreover, what more needs to be done.
Threats to the nation—from terrorists, from criminals and from foreign governments seeking to steal our secrets and undermine our elections and democracy—are very real. The 37,000 men and women of the FBI are on the front lines, every day, addressing these threats and helping to keep Americans safe.
The FBI is not a corrupt institution, or the “deep state.” It is not acting against the president for political purposes.
We need to come together, in a bipartisan fashion, to support you and this institution, even as we conduct important oversight. I am very proud to be supportive of your organization and its mission.”