Attorney General Jeff Sessions Friday acknowledged recent bitter criticism of the Justice Department leveled by some Republican lawmakers and pledged to eliminate “political bias or favoritism” from the agency.
In a speech largely devoted to rallying the Trump administration’s hardline immigration stance, the attorney general also offered up a defense of the department whose officials have been under siege from some conservative House members and even President Trump, himself.
“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,” Sessions said in Norfolk, Va. “That’s the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning, and that is what my team works hard at every day.”
Sessions did not directly address a simmering dispute over two FBI officials — once assigned to the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election — who had exchanged text messages disparaging Trump. Some lawmakers and Trump have sized on the communications to question the continuing Russia inquiry led by Robert Mueller and to call for a second special to examine the FBI’s handling of the matter.
But the attorney general, who has recused himself from the investigation because of his prior contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, said the department was committed to “absolutely eliminating political bias and favoritism — in either direction —from our investigations and prosecutions.”
“That sort of thinking is the antithesis of what the department stands for, and I won’t tolerate it,” Sessions said Friday.
“We don’t see criticism from the 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.”
Sessions’ Justice Department, however, pushed back against Congress earlier this week, urging some Republican members that it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to release information, alleging unfounded abuses of federal surveillance authority in a ratcheted up attack on the FBI.
“While we are open to fair criticism,” Sessions said Friday, “we will of course defend our investigators and prosecutors from criticism that is unfair.”