WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday his own Justice Department may be fair game for criticism amid Republican complaints of anti-Trump bias in the FBI.
Sessions, speaking to law enforcement officials in Norfolk, Virginia, said the department’s mission is to identify and correct “mistakes of the past” and eliminate political bias “in either direction” from its investigations and prosecutions, a suggestion that that has not always been the case.
“My purpose every day is to get the department back to its fundamental mission of enforcing the law and protecting the safety of Americans with integrity and fairness,” he said, and the end of a speech about the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown.
The unusual comments as some congressional Republicans point to what they see as signs of political favoritism in the FBI, including anti- Donald Trump text messages between a counterintelligence agent who was kicked off special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and an FBI lawyer. They’ve also alleged misconduct and bias in the handling of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, which ended without criminal charges.
Democrats say that outrage is an effort to discredit Mueller’s investigation into possible obstruction of justice and Trump campaign ties to Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Sessions did not mention those cases directly, or say what he was referring to, only that: “We don’t see criticism from Congress as a bad thing. When they learn of a problem and start asking questions that is a good thing.”
Rather than be defensive, Sessions said the Justice Department would hear concerns and “act on them professionally, fairly and completely” to maintain public trust.
“A culture of defensiveness is not acceptable,” Sessions said. “The Department of Justice does not always know what’s best, and it is not perfect.”
Sessions, who has been criticized for not publicly defending the department against Trump’s attacks, also promised action against employees who fail to meet the department’s “highest level of integrity, ethics and professionalism,” while defending those who are unfairly accused.
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” he said. “Truth produces confidence.”