Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. “Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation”

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Director Comey, for your appearance here today.

The FBI’s mission is a complex undertaking: to protect the United States from terrorism, to enforce our criminal laws, and to lead the nation’s law enforcement community.

That mission ought to mirror our own priorities in this Committee. 

In the past few days, for example, we have witnessed near-fatal terrorist attacks in Minnesota, New York, and New Jersey.

These attacks underscore the growing fear that individuals can be moved to violence at home by the propaganda of ISIS and other terrorist groups abroad—even though they have no direct connection to those organizations.

To me, this threat is dire.  We should be doing all we can within our communities—and within our constitutional framework—to mitigate the danger.

But will our Majority use their time today to discuss these attacks?  I suspect it will not be their focus in this campaign season.

In Charlotte, in Tulsa, in Dallas—right here in Washington, DC—and in other cities across this country, our citizens demand answers to questions about race and policing, and the use of lethal force by law enforcement. 

Our police are under siege, often under resourced, and in some cases hard pressed to build trust with the communities they serve.

Director Comey, your continued work to foster lines of communication between police officers and the general public is commendable—and necessary if we are to keep our citizens safe from harm.

But will my colleagues discuss this pressing issue with the Director of the FBI, whose leadership in the law enforcement community is paramount?  Again, I fear their focus will be elsewhere.

The FBI is the lead agency in the investigation of cyber-based terrorism, computer intrusions, online sexual exploitation, and major cyber fraud.  We have known for some years about the persistent cyber threat to our critical infrastructure.

Now, we hear reports of a new cyber threat—to the very basis of our democratic process.

Twice this summer, Director Comey, I wrote to you with my fellow ranking members to ask you to look into reports that Russian state actors are working to undermine our election process.

Without objection, I ask that both of those letters be placed into the record.

It is now the clear consensus of the Intelligence Community that the Russian government was behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee—and not, as some have suggested, “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

On Friday, we learned from one report that: “U.S. intelligence officials are seeking to determine whether an American businessman identified by Donald Trump as one of his foreign policy advisors has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials—including talks about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if the Republican nominee becomes president.”
The report cites to an unnamed “senior U.S. law enforcement official,” which I presume means someone in your orbit, Director Comey.

Without objection, I ask that this article be placed into the record as well.

Let me be clear: if true, this allegation represents a danger to our national security and a clear violation of federal law—which expressly prohibits this type of back-channel negotiation.

I am not alone in describing the nature of this threat.  Speaker Ryan himself has said that “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug.  Putin should say out of this election.”

But will our Majority press you on this problem today, Director Comey?  I suspect not.

Instead, I believe that the focus of this hearing will be more of the same: an attack on you, and your team at the Department of Justice, for declining to recommend criminal charges against Secretary Hillary Clinton.

In recent weeks, this line of attack has been remarkable only for its lack of substance.

Your critics dwell in character assassination and procedural minutia—like the proper scope of immunity agreements, and your decision to protect the identities of individuals wholly unrelated to the investigation.

They want to investigate the investigation, Director Comey.  What an unfortunate waste of this Committee’s time.

With so many actual problems confronting this nation, and so many of those challenges within your jurisdiction and ours, you would think my colleagues would set their priorities differently.

I hope that they do, as they listen to our conversation today.  I thank the Chairman, and I yield back.

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