Noth­ing Im­proper

The Washington Post Sunday - - Outlook -

My de­ci­sion some months ago to pri­vately seek the res­ig­na­tions of a small num­ber of U.S. at­tor­neys has erupted into a pub­lic firestorm. First and fore­most, I ap­pre­ci­ate the pub­lic ser­vice of th­ese fine lawyers and ded­i­cated pro­fes­sion­als, each of whom served his or her full four-year term as U.S. at­tor­ney. I apol­o­gize to them, their fam­i­lies and the thou­sands of ded­i­cated pro­fes­sion­als at the Jus­tice De­part­ment for my role in al­low­ing this mat­ter to spin into an undig­ni­fied Wash­ing­ton spec­ta­cle.

What be­gan as a well-in­ten­tioned man­age­ment ef­fort to iden­tify where, among the 93 U.S. at­tor­neys, changes in lead­er­ship might ben­e­fit the de­part­ment, and there­fore the Amer­i­can peo­ple, has be­come an un­in­tended pub­lic con­tro­versy.

While I ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity for my role in com­mis­sion­ing this man­age­ment re­view process, I want to make some fun­da­men­tal points abun­dantly clear.

I know that I did not — and would not — ask for the res­ig­na­tion of any U.S. at­tor­ney for an im­proper rea­son. Fur­ther­more, I have no ba­sis to be­lieve that any­one in­volved in this process sought the re­moval of a U.S. at­tor­ney for an im­proper rea­son.

Given my con­vic­tions on this is­sue, I tes­ti­fied be­fore Congress in Jan­uary and will do so again on Tues­day. I have per­son­ally spo­ken with many mem­bers of Congress over the past sev­eral weeks to hear their con­cerns about this mat­ter. Ad­di­tion­ally, I have in­structed all Jus­tice De­part­ment of­fi­cials to make them­selves avail­able for on-the-record in­ter­views with law­mak­ers and hear­ings be­fore Congress, and I have or­dered the re­lease of thou­sands of pages of in­ter­nal doc­u­ments.

All of th­ese doc­u­ments and pub­lic tes­ti­mony in­di­cate that the Jus­tice De­part­ment did not seek the re­moval of any U.S. at­tor­ney to in­ter­fere with or im­prop­erly in­flu­ence any case or in­ves­ti­ga­tion. In­deed, I am ex­tremely proud of the de­part­ment’s strong record of vig­or­ous prose­cu­tions, par­tic­u­larly in the area of pub­lic cor­rup­tion, where Repub­li­cans and Democrats alike have been held ac­count­able for their crimes.

I have nev­er­the­less asked the Jus­tice De­part­ment’s Of­fice of Pro­fes­sional Re­spon­si­bil­ity to fur­ther in­ves­ti­gate this mat­ter. Work­ing with the de­part­ment’s Of­fice of In­spec­tor Gen­eral, th­ese non­par­ti­san pro­fes­sion­als will com­plete their own in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion so that Congress and the Amer­i­can peo­ple can be 100 per­cent as­sured of what I be­lieve and what the in­ves­ti­ga­tion thus far has shown: that noth­ing im­proper oc­curred.

While I have never sought to de­ceive Congress or the Amer­i­can peo­ple, I also know that I cre­ated con­fu­sion with some of my re­cent state­ments about my role in this mat­ter. To be clear: I di­rected my then-deputy chief of staff, Kyle Samp­son, to ini­ti­ate this process; fully knew that it was oc­cur­ring; and ap­proved the fi­nal rec­om­men­da­tions. Samp­son pe­ri­od­i­cally up­dated me on the re­view. As I re­call, his up­dates were brief, rel­a­tively few in num­ber and fo­cused pri­mar­ily on the re­view process.

Dur­ing those con­ver­sa­tions, to my knowl­edge, I did not make de­ci­sions about who should or should not be asked to re­sign.

I am com­mit­ted to ex­plain­ing my role in this process and will do so Tues­day when I tes­tify be­fore Congress.

I am also com­mit­ted to cor­rect­ing any man­age­ment mis­steps that oc­curred dur­ing this process. In re­cent weeks I have met with more than 70 U.S. at­tor­neys around the coun­try to hear their con­cerns and dis­cuss ways to im­prove com­mu­ni­ca­tion and co­or­di­na­tion be­tween their of­fices and the Jus­tice De­part­ment.

Th­ese dis­cus­sions have been frank, and good ideas are com­ing out, in­clud­ing ways to en­sure that ev­ery U.S. at­tor­ney can know whether his or her per­for­mance is at the level ex­pected by the pres­i­dent and the at­tor­ney gen­eral. Ad­di­tion­ally, I have asked for rec­om­men­da­tions on for­mal and in­for­mal steps that we can take to im­prove all forms of di­a­logue be­tween the main Jus­tice De­part­ment and U.S. at­tor­neys na­tion­wide.

I am also telling our 93 U.S. at­tor­neys that I look for­ward to work­ing with them to pur­sue the great goals of our de­part­ment in the weeks and months to come. Dur­ing the past two years, we have made great strides in se­cur­ing our coun­try from ter­ror­ism, pro­tect­ing our neigh­bor­hoods from gangs and drugs, shield­ing our chil­dren from preda­tors and pe­dophiles, and pro­tect­ing the pub­lic trust by pros­e­cut­ing pub­lic cor­rup­tion. As I have stressed re­peat­edly to our U.S. at­tor­neys and oth­ers within the de­part­ment, re­cent events will not and must not de­ter us from our im­por­tant mis­sion.

In part be­cause of my own ex­pe­ri­ence, I know the real strength of Amer­ica. It lies in our Con­sti­tu­tion, our peo­ple and our col­lec­tive un­yield­ing com­mit­ment to equal op­por­tu­nity, equal jus­tice, com­mon de­cency and fair­ness. With this same com­mit­ment in my mind, I very much look for­ward to an­swer­ing Congress’s ques­tions about this mat­ter on Tues­day.

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