FBI direc­tor: ‘No finer in­sti­tu­tion’

Chris Wray fends off at­tacks on agency

Albuquerque Journal - - METRO & NM - BY SADIE GURMAN AND ERIC TUCKER

WASH­ING­TON — Coun­ter­ing stri­dent at­tacks on his agency from the pres­i­dent who ap­pointed him, FBI Direc­tor Chris Wray on Thurs­day de­fended the tens of thou­sands of peo­ple who work with him and de­clared, “There is no finer in­sti­tu­tion, and no finer peo­ple, than the men and women who work there and are its very beat­ing heart.”

Wray pro­vided his first pub­lic defense of the na­tion’s premier law en­force­ment agency since a week­end of Twit­ter at­tacks by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who called the FBI a bi­ased in­sti­tu­tion whose rep­u­ta­tion is “in Tat­ters — worst in His­tory!” and urged Wray to “clean house.”

The out­burst from the pres­i­dent fol­lowed a guilty plea from his for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser for ly­ing to the FBI and the rev­e­la­tion that an agent had been re­moved from a spe­cial team in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Trump cam­paign be­cause of text mes­sages seen as po­ten­tially anti-Trump.

Wray, who served as a top Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cial un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush and was nom­i­nated as FBI direc­tor by Trump, faced a wave of Repub­li­can crit­i­cism over per­ceived po­lit­i­cal bias in spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s probe of pos­si­ble Trump cam­paign ties to Rus­sia dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and in the han­dling a year ear­lier of an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Hil­lary Clin­ton’s use of a pri­vate email server that ended with­out crim­i­nal charges.

Al­though he did not men­tion Trump’s crit­i­cism di­rectly, Wray re­but­ted him di­rectly, say­ing, “My ex­pe­ri­ence has been that our rep­u­ta­tion is quite good.”

Wray sought to fend off the at­tacks on the agency by ex­press­ing pride in the agents, an­a­lysts and other per­son­nel who he said were work­ing to pro­tect Amer­i­cans. But he also con­ceded that agents do make mis­takes and said there are pro­cesses in place to hold them ac­count­able.

“There is no short­age of opin­ions out there, but what I can tell you is that the FBI that I see is tens of thou­sands of agents and an­a­lysts and staff work­ing their tails off to keep Amer­i­cans safe,” Wray said of the agency he has led for just four months. “The FBI that I see is tens of thou­sands of brave men and women work­ing as hard as they can to keep peo­ple they will never know safe from harm.”

The fo­cus on the Clin­ton and Trump probes re­flected how the FBI in the last two years has found it­self en­tan­gled in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, with in­ves­ti­ga­tions fo­cused on the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee and the Repub­li­can pres­i­dent and his suc­cess­ful cam­paign.

CAROLYN KASTER/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

FBI Direc­tor Christo­pher Wray de­fends the bureau dur­ing tes­ti­mony Thurs­day be­fore the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee. The bureau has come un­der heavy crit­i­cism from the White House.

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