FBI Chief Defends Bureau Against Trump’s Attacks

“There is no shortage of opinions out there.”

Christopher Wray testifies during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. Bill Clark/Congressional Quarterly/Newscom via ZUMA Press)

FBI Director Christopher Wray defended the bureau on Thursday against President Donald Trump’s recent attacks, saying that its agents are working hard to stop “child predators” and “spies from Russia,” among other wrongdoers. Those references perhaps inadvertently evoked Trump’s endorsement of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who is accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls, and Trump’s refusal to accept the US intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help him win.

Wray was responding to a question from Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, about the president’s tweets on Sunday in which he claimed the FBI’s reputation was “in tatters.” Trump faulted the bureau for its supposedly “phony” investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

“There is no shortage of opinions out there,” Wray said. “What I can tell you is that the FBI that I see is tens of thousands of dedicated agents and analysts and staff working their tails off to stop the next terrorist attack, gang violence, child predators, spies from Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. The FBI that I see is tens of thousands of people working as hard as they can to keep people that will never know safe from harm. The FBI that I see is people, decent people, committed to the highest principles of integrity and professionalism and respect.”

Wray’s response rebuked not only Trump but congressional Republicans who have also faulted the bureau for its handling of the Clinton probe and criticized special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Trump associates’ possible coordination with Russia and Trump’s alleged obstruction of justice.

“The FBI’s reputation has been called into question,” committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said in his opening statement Thursday. “You, Director Wray, have a unique opportunity to repair the damage.”

Justice Department officials have said that FBI agent Peter Strzok was reassigned earlier this year from Mueller’s team after the agency’s inspector general discovered Strzok had exchanged communications critical of Trump with a colleague who was also working on the Trump-Russia probe. Republicans have cited the news as evidence of bias in Mueller’s investigation.

“Do we make mistakes? You bet we make mistakes, just like everybody who is human makes mistakes,” Wray said. “And when we make mistakes, there are independent processes like that of the outside independent inspector general.”