When President Trump announced Christopher Wray’s nomination as FBI director in June, he praised him as “a man of impeccable credentials.”
I will be nominating Christopher A. Wray, a man of impeccable credentials, to be the new Director of the FBI. Details to follow.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 7, 2017
But on Friday morning, Trump sang a very different tune.
After Wray’s FBI took the unusual step of publicly speaking out against the release of a Republican intelligence memo that purportedly details political bias in the intelligence community, the president is now accusing Wray — who was nominated by President George W. Bush to run the DOJ’s criminal division — of politicizing investigations and favoring Democrats.
“The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans – something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago,” Trump tweeted on Friday morning. “Rank & File are great people!”
The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans – something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. Rank & File are great people!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2018
Not only is Trump attacking Wray, but he’s also attacking Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former Republican senator who was one of Trump’s most prominent surrogates during the campaign before Trump appointed him to the top DOJ role. Trump has publicly criticized Sessions for recusing himself from overseeing the FBI’s investigation into his campaign, which ultimately led to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointing Robert Mueller as special counsel.
The controversy here centers on a Republican intelligence memo that alleges FBI abuses in the ongoing investigation into Trump officials’ ties to Russia. Trump reportedly hopes the public release of this memo will allow him to put pressure on Rosenstein, the top official overseeing the active investigation into his campaign.
Rosenstein, or whoever replaces him as deputy attorney general, will ultimately make the decision about whether or not Mueller’s investigatory findings will be made public. Rosenstein is also the only U.S. official with the authority to fire Mueller.
But experts across the intelligence community have cautioned against taking the memo seriously. The FBI released a statement saying the memo isn’t accurate, and Wray reportedly threatened to quit if it becomes public.
Trump’s accusation that the FBI and DOJ are biased against him is hard to square with the facts. The FBI investigation into the Trump campaign for possible collusion with Russia became in the summer of 2016 — a period of time when then-director Comey repeatedly spoke out publicly about the bureau’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Comey’s unusual move to publicize new information pertaining to the Clinton investigation in the day before the election arguably cost her the election. Meanwhile, the bureau didn’t confirm the existence of the investigation into the Trump campaign until Trump had already won office.
Republicans who have been helping Trump is his effort to discredit the FBI have centered their conspiracy theory on text messages exchanged by two FBI officials who privately shared anti-Trump views during the campaign. But that conspiracy theory, weak as it was, fell apart earlier this week when CNN reported that one of those employees supported reopening the Hillary Clinton email investigation days before the election — and wrote the first draft of the letter from Comey that made the decision public.
Trump’s attack on his top officials comes days after numerous outlets reported that he asked Rosenstein about his political allegiance during a recent White House meeting. Rosenstein is the latest in a string of top DOJ officials who have been pressed by Trump about the strength of their allegiance to him, including Comey, former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, and Sessions.
Following his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, a hot mic caught Trump telling a Republican congressman that he “100 percent” supports releasing the memo. The next morning, White House officials confirmed that Trump hadn’t even read it yet.