Countering strident attacks on his agency from the president who appointed him, FBI Director Christopher Wray on Thursday defended the tens of thousands of people who work with him and declared, "There is no finer institution, and no finer people, than the men and women who work there and are its very beating heart".
Democrats, however, sought to focus on Trump's comments and actions, and the actions of members of his campaign previous year.
The senior Democrat on the committee, Rep.
Comey has said that during one of those private conversations, Trump told him he hoped he'd consider ending an FBI investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with a Russian diplomat.
"There is no shortage of opinions out there", Wray said.
"What I can tell you is that the Federal Bureau of Investigation that I see is tens of thousands of agents and analysts and staff working their tails off to keep Americans safe from the next terrorist attack, gang violence, child predators, spies from Russia, China and North Korea, and Iran", he responded.
"The FBI that I see is tens of thousands of fearless men and women", he continued.
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News reports last weekend said Strzok had been fired by Mueller as lead investigator in August over pro-Clinton text messages he sent to a Justice Department lawyer. As CNN reported, Strzok changed Comey's key description of Clinton's actions from "grossly negligent" to "extremely careless".
"The FBI I see is reflected in folks like the new class of agents I swore in in Quantico two days ago", he said.
Given the opportunity to publicly address Trump's comments, Wray pushed back on the idea that the FBI's reputation is "in tatters" and the "worst in history".
Wray told the House Judiciary Committee his agents work hard "protecting the American people and upholding the rule of law in all 50 states and in about 80 countries around the world". You bet we make mistakes.
"If you kicked everybody off Mueller's team who are anti-Trump, I don't think there would be anybody left", said Republican Congressman Jim Jordan. "And when that independent fact finding is complete, we will hold our folks accountable if that's appropriate".
Republican lawmakers intensely focused on revelations that came to light last week about Peter Strzok, a high-ranking FBI agent who worked on both the Hillary Clinton email probe under former FBI Director James Comey and the Department of Justice Russia investigation, whose anti-Trump text messages led him to be removed from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigative team over the summer.
"And we are accustomed to that", he said, adding, "My experience has been that our reputation is quite good".
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