The number two U.S. Justice Department official said on Thursday that the department needed to correct errors and prevent future violations, in testimony to a House of Representatives committee probing its conduct during the 2016 presidential election.
“We need to correct errors, hold wrongdoers accountable and deter future violations,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in his first public comments on an inspector general’s report describing missteps by the FBI in its handling of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server use while she was secretary of state.
The report found that former FBI Director James Comey made a “serious error of judgment” when he announced shortly before the election that he was reopening an investigation into Democratic nominee Clinton’s e-mail server use.
In October 2016, less than two weeks before Election Day, Comey disclosed to members of Congress that a probe into Clinton was being reopened after new emails were discovered, a disclosure Clinton contends contributed to her surprise defeat by Republican Donald Trump.
Despite criticizing Comey, the Justice Department report found there was no political bias at the FBI in decisions made in the Clinton probe.
But many of Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress, particularly in the House, have been pushing for more information about what they see as bias against Trump at the FBI and Justice Department during his presidential campaign.
“We must assure the American people that the agencies under our jurisdiction operate fairly, treating all equally under the law,” Representative Bob Goodlatte, the committee’s Republican chairman, said.
Some Republican lawmakers have called on Trump, who fired Comey last year, to also dismiss Rosenstein. The current FBI director, Christopher Wray, also testified at Thursday’s hearing.
The hearing started with an angry exchange between the committee’s majority Republicans and Democrats over whether it should be holding an “emergency” hearing on events of two years ago.
The session adjourned briefly just after it started so committee members could vote on a non-binding resolution demanding that the Justice Department comply with document requests from Congress about the 2016 campaign.
Although the resolution is not binding, it is widely viewed as a possible precursor before the House takes a more serious step of holding Rosenstein in contempt.
Reporting by Sarah Lynch and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alistair Bell