FBI director: ‘These are challenging times for the organization’
Mark Wilson/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) — In his first stop in Los Angeles since taking over at the FBI, Director Christopher Wray addressed a gathering of former and current federal agents near Los Angeles International Airport on Monday.
His speech came just days after the Department of Justice’s internal watchdog produced a report focusing on how senior FBI officials handled matters tied to the 2016 presidential election.
Wray, not appearing to read from prepared remarks in front of the 600 or so members of law enforcement, joked at times during his half-hour-long speech, which began after he entered the room limping from a recent exercise injury.
“Like a lot of things,” he said, “my limp is not permanent.”
Wray then laid out his plan for moving the FBI forward.
“So these are challenging times for the organization,” he said. “We’re having our turn in the barrel.”
He told the agents he doesn’t believe it will be the last challenge for the FBI as times have changed due to cable news and the internet.
“People can say whatever the heck they want, whenever they want, with only a moment’s thought and just a few thumbs,” Wray continued.
DOJ’s nearly-500-page report focused on former FBI director James Comey’s actions around the time of the 2016 election, in addition to those of FBI employees who exchanged text messages before the election.
In one text-message exchange, a senior FBI agent leading the Hillary Clinton email probe wrote to a colleague that he and his team would “stop” Donald Trump from becoming president, if necessary.
The report concluded that the text messages left a cloud over the FBI — a could Wray is determined to clear.
“We’re going to make sure that even though the report didn’t find bias actually impacted the investigation, that’s not good enough for me,” Wray said. “I want to make sure everybody understands the lessons of the report. We are doing in-depth training on the findings.”
Wray told the assembled agents he’s laying out four themes to restore the FBI’s image. He wants the agency to focus on “process and doing things in the right way, partnership and teamwork, focusing on the brand that actually matters, and innovation and focusing on the future.”
He broke those down to include making sure the FBI “brand” is strong and clean by following rules and procedures in investigations.
“In this environment,” Wray told the agents, “we need to make sure we’re refocused on how we do things — make sure we’re focused on our rules, focusing on our guidelines, focusing on our policies, focusing on our best traditions, our core values.”
He told stories of children who had interactions with FBI agents and then grew up wanting to become FBI agents, and he implored FBI agents to ignore criticism from the president on Twitter and to just focus on doing their jobs to the best of their abilities.
“If we stay focused on what really matters, if we stay head up, eyes forward, shoulder to shoulder, we’re going to be just fine,” Wray said. “It’s going to be a little rocky for a while, but I’m convinced we’ll get through it just like we always have.”
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