Attorney General Jeff Sessions committed to stamping out political bias in the Justice Department, an apparent problem highlighted by two FBI employees' disparaging text messages about President Donald Trump.
While speaking in Virginia on Friday, Sessions explained his intent to return the Justice Department to its “fundamental mission” by, among other things, “eliminating political bias or favoritism.”
“It means absolutely eliminating political bias or favoritism — in either direction — from our investigations and prosecutions,” he said.
“That sort of thinking is the antithesis of what the Department stands for, and I won’t tolerate it.”
Sessions's comments came a little over a month after the White House called out “extreme” anti-Trump bias in the FBI.
“There is extreme bias against this president with high-up members of the team there at the FBI who were investigating Hillary Clinton at the time,” deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley said.
His remarks likely referred to text messages exchanged between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, two FBI employees who allegedly had an affair and worked on special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Trump's alleged ties to Russia.
Strzok — who wrote “F TRUMP” in one message — also edited former FBI James Comey's remarks to say Trump's 2016 opponent and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton engaged in “extremely careless” rather than “grossly negligent” behavior, a seemingly minor change that could have had legal consequences.
On Thursday, news surfaced that the Justice Department found additional texts, originally thought to be missing after a technical glitch prevented the FBI from storing them.
During his speech on Friday, Sessions committed to correcting his Department's mistakes rather than “sweeping them under the rug”:
It means identifying mistakes of the past, and correcting them for the future. When we find problems, we’re addressing them head on, not sweeping them under the rug. Much of what we are doing is behind the scenes, but some of it is squarely in the public view. That’s ok. It’s part of the process.
We don’t see criticism from Congress as a bad thing. We welcome Congress as a partner in this effort. When they learn of a problem and start asking questions, that is a good thing. Sunlight truly is the best disinfectant. Truth produces confidence.
A culture of defensiveness is not acceptable. The Department of Justice does not always know what’s best, and it is not perfect. And, it can never be that this Department conceals errors when they occur.
Sessions went on to say that his Department demanded “the highest level of integrity, ethics, and professionalism,”
“If anyone falls short of these high standards,” he said, “we will not hesitate to take appropriate action — and we will do so in accordance with the rules and procedures of the Department.”