Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, and Iowa Sen. Charles E. Grassley, the panel’s ranking Republican, asked the Justice Department’s inspector general on Monday to review FBI agents’ failure to follow rules and procedures in sensitive domestic investigations as revealed in a 2019 internal audit.
The Senate Judiciary Committee’s bipartisan leadership also pressed FBI Director Christopher A. Wray to hand over an unredacted copy of the 2019 audit, which was first reported by The Washington Times.
Mr. Durbin and Mr. Grassley said the violations shown in the audit were “widespread and apparently systemic” in their letters to Mr. Wray and Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz.
“The sheer number of FBI investigations that failed to comply with the [Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide] rules suggests a pattern and practice of evading the rules, which consequently opens the door for political and other improper considerations to infect the investigative decision-making process,” the senators wrote in the letters.
The audit found FBI agents violating their own rules 747 times in 18 months while conducting sensitive investigations involving individuals engaged in politics, government, the news media, religious groups and other things. The senators asked Mr. Horowitz to conduct an additional audit of the FBI’s compliance with its rules for conducting sensitive investigative matters, particularly the FBI’s compliance for such matters since July 2019.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the senators’ letters. The FBI told The Times it received the senators’ letter, it takes compliance seriously, and it is committed to ensuring its employees adhere to the rules.
“Importantly, there were no findings that any of the investigations reviewed were opened for an improper purpose,” the FBI said in a statement. “While the number of deviations from FBI approval, notification, and administrative requirements noted in the report is unacceptable, we began implementing important changes in training and awareness even prior to issuance of the report, and the findings in the audit were promptly and fully addressed.”
Mr. Durbin and Mr. Grassley asked Mr. Wray in Monday’s letter to explain what steps the bureau took in response to the audit’s findings.
The senators are not the only lawmakers seeking more information about the FBI’s domestic operations. Last week, House Judiciary Committee Republicans asked Mr. Wray to explain potential discrepancies between his 2021 congressional testimony about how investigations are conducted and the 2019 audit’s findings.
• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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