Director Wray's Opening Remarks to Senate Judiciary Committee

FBI Director Christopher Wray's opening remarks to the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 23, 2019.


Video Transcript

Senator Lindsay Graham: Do you solemnly swear the testimony you're about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

FBI Director Christopher Wray: Yes.

Graham: Thank you. Sorry about that.

Wray: So, thank you, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Feinstein, members of the Committee, for the chance to appear before you today. I had originally intended to start with a few comments from my statement for the record, which talks about some of the extraordinary work being done by the men and women of the FBI and some of the threats we face. But I want to do something a little different and talk about an issue that's particularly near and dear to me and that I think, frankly, doesn't get the attention it deserves, before I turn to the many important questions of the Committee.

As you say, Senator Feinstein, I've been on the job just under two years and one of the toughest things about this job is the loss of a law enforcement officer. And certainly at the FBI, we've experienced our share of loss, but the success of the FBI also depends greatly on the support of our dedicated state and local law enforcement partners who patrol our neighborhoods, protect our streets all across America. And I see that much more clearly now after having visited all 56 of the FBI's field offices and having spoken directly with local law enforcement heads from every one of your states.

Our state and local partners serve on the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Forces all across the country. They're force multipliers in our fight against drug trafficking and taking down gangs, in saving kids who've been kidnapped, and in countless other efforts that help keep Americans safe. They also give the FBI a much clearer understanding of the threats across the different communities in your states and ideas about how we can better combat them together.

Every time I attend an FBI graduation for new agents or new analysts at Quantico, a significant number of those graduates are former state and local officers, and I have the privilege of shaking their hands, presenting them with their credentials, and welcoming them to the FBI family. So a line of duty death is personal to the FBI and it's personal to me as Director. And I have a feeling it's personal to a number of you.

Since I became Director, shortly thereafter, I asked my team to let me know every time an officer is shot and killed in the line of duty in this country. And every time it happens, I ask for a picture of the officer and I read about his or her family and about how long they served. And then I pick up the phone and I call the chief or the sheriff or the commissioner and on behalf of the entire FBI extend my support and our condolences. And I will tell you, I've made an awful lot of those calls to heartbroken police departments. Way, way too many.

Just last month, for example, I was overseas meeting with foreign counterparts, and I found myself making five of those calls in nine days back to the United States. That's five lost protectors of communities, five grieving families and colleagues, all in a matter of days. One of the calls I made was to the Sacramento Police Department, the home, Senator Feinstein, of you and, of course, Senator Harris. Just a few weeks ago, on June 19th, Officer Tara O'Sullivan was killed while responding to a domestic disturbance. She was 26 years old and she'd only been on the job for about six months.

Another call I made, literally only about a day later, was to the home state of Senator Cornyn and Senator Cruz. Corporal Jose Espericueta from the Mission Police Department was killed while trying to catch a guy who had threatened his family with a gun and then fled on foot. Corporal Espericueta was 44 years old and had a wife and two kids. So, these calls never get any easier. In just under two years as Director, I've already had to make condolence calls like that to more than half of the states represented on this Committee. And I've had to speak to some chiefs and sheriffs more than once.

I'll never forget, for example, last September, when I called the Brookhaven, Mississippi, Police Department after two of their men were killed. Put that in context, they had an entire police force of 38 people. Unfortunately, we've already had two more officers shot and killed in the line of duty just this month. One was an officer killed in Arkansas this past Thursday.

So I've mentioned only a few specific, tragic incidents, but I cannot stress enough that this is a problem that affects cities and towns, big and small, all over the country. It can happen anywhere, it can happen any time. And the level of violence against law enforcement in this country doesn't get a whole lot of national coverage, and I worry often that Americans don't realize the extent of the problem. That's maybe understandable because they don't see what I see in my job – the devastating loss in each one of these instances to the loved ones left behind, and the loss to the FBI and to our communities of partners who, as I say, are so critical to our mission.

Finally, I want folks to remember that the dangers of this work go beyond just encounters with potentially deadly criminals. Think of the line of duty deaths and illnesses that we’re seeing now from our 9/11 first responders. I know that as Director, I've spoken to not one, not two, but three of our own agents who died as a result of their work in response to those attacks. And there are countless other kinds of examples.

So, I know our country faces a daunting list of challenges and I'm confident we're going to be discussing any number of them together at this hearing, but I do want to make sure folks around this country are not forgetting the good work of the people who are putting everything on the line. It takes an incredibly special person to be willing to put his or her life on the line for a complete stranger. And to get up every morning, day after day after day, to do that, I think, is extraordinary.

So I think we owe it to them and to their fallen comrades to do whatever we can to make their work safer. We need to promote understanding and respect for their roles, and all of us as Americans owe them a profound debt of gratitude. So, I appreciate the Committee extending me the privilege and the honor as FBI Director to honor their sacrifice in this job. So I'd be happy to answer the Committee's questions.

 

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