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Trump lashes out at FBI director in wake of Justice Department inspector general’s report

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 12/10/2019 John Wagner, Matt Zapotosky

President Trump lashed out Tuesday morning at FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, saying that “he will never be able to fix the FBI” based on his reaction to a Justice Department inspector general’s report examining the bureau’s investigation of Trump’s 2016 campaign.

“I don’t know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but it sure wasn’t the one given to me,” Trump tweeted. “With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken despite having some of the greatest men & women working there!”

The 434-page report rebutted conservatives’ accusations that top FBI officials were driven by political bias to illegally spy on Trump advisers as part of the investigation of election interference by Russia, but it also found broad and “serious performance failures” requiring major changes.

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In a statement Monday, Wray, a Trump appointee, said he had ordered more than 40 corrective steps to address the report’s recommendations, adding that he would not hesitate to take “appropriate disciplinary action if warranted.”

He noted to ABC News, though, that it was “important that the inspector general found that, in this particular instance, the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization.”

The report, which was based on more than 1 million documents and more than 170 interviews, is the most exhaustive assessment of the investigation of Russian election interference that roiled Trump’s presidency, an inquiry that would ultimately be taken over by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

a man wearing a suit and tie: FBI Director Christopher Wray. © Jacquelyn Martin/AP FBI Director Christopher Wray. Wray was sworn in as FBI director in August 2017, replacing Andrew McCabe, who had been leading the bureau in an acting capacity after Trump fired James B. Comey.

Unlike Comey, Wray has sought to keep a low profile, and that has helped him somewhat to avoid conflict with the commander in chief.

But the FBI director has been at odds with Trump at times. For example, Wray earlier this year said he would not use the term “spying” to describe the FBI’s surveillance activities toward the Trump campaign in 2016 — contradicting both the president and Attorney General William P. Barr.

At the time, Trump said Wray gave “a ridiculous answer.”

Wray also told ABC on Monday that the inspector general “did not find political bias or improper motivations impacting the opening of the investigation or the decision to use certain investigative tools during the investigations.” He rejected characterizing the bureau’s work as that of the “deep state” — a term Trump has used.

“I think that’s the kind of label that’s a disservice to the men and women who work at the FBI who I think tackle their jobs with professionalism, with rigor, with objectivity, with courage,” he said. “So that’s not a term I would ever use to describe our workforce, and I think it’s an affront to them.”

Wray separately said the FBI had “no information that indicates that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 presidential election.” Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, has suggested otherwise and recently traveled to Ukraine to meet with people there who he thinks might bolster his case.

“When you see politicians pushing this notion, are you concerned about that in terms of its impact on the American public?” ABC’s Pierre Thomas asked Wray.

“Well, look, there’s all kinds of people saying all kinds of things out there,” Wray responded. “I think it’s important for the American people to be thoughtful consumers of information, to think about the sources of it and to think about the support and predication for what they hear.”

Officials have said that Barr and Wray have a good working relationship, but that they expect the inspector general’s report will increase tensions at least in the short term between the FBI and the Justice Department, as well as with the White House.

Although Wray is appointed to a 10-year term, ostensibly to remove him from politics, Trump could fire him. Doing so, however, would come with significant political risk.

Trump’s May 2017 firing of Comey, his first FBI director, produced far-reaching consequences that have dogged his presidency ever since.

Before Comey’s firing, Trump was not a direct subject in the FBI investigation of whether his campaign had coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election. But after Comey’s removal, the FBI began investigating Trump personally for possible obstruction of justice.

In earlier tweets Tuesday, Trump selectively highlighted findings from the inspector general’s report by quoting Fox News commentators who said it documented “very serious misconduct.”

“Are you listening Comey, McCabe, lovers Lisa & Peter, the beautiful Ohr family, Brennan, Clapper & many more?” Trump added in his own words, referring to several former FBI and intelligence community officials he has repeatedly criticized.

Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.


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