FBI Di­rec­tor Wray de­fends his agency against Trump’s at­tacks

Chicago Tribune - - NATION & WORLD - By Sadie Gur­man and Eric Tucker

WASHINGTON — Coun­ter­ing stri­dent at­tacks on his agency from the pres­i­dent who ap­pointed him, FBI Di­rec­tor Christo­pher Wray on Thurs­day de­fended the tens of thou­sands of peo­ple who work with him and de­clared, “There is no finer in­sti­tu­tion.”

Wray, who has led the agency just four months, fended off po­lit­i­cally charged ques­tions from law­mak­ers of both par­ties dur­ing a rou­tine over­sight hear­ing that was over­taken by ques­tions about Hil­lary Clin­ton’s emails and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign. Cit­ing pend­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions, he re­peat­edly de­clined to an­swer ques­tions about ei­ther.

But he did not hes­i­tate to de­fend the nation’s pre­mier law en­force­ment agency fol­low­ing a week­end of Twit­ter at­tacks by 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 FBI agent had been re­moved from a spe­cial team in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Trump cam­paign be­cause of text mes­sages seen as po­ten­tially anti-Trump.

Wray, who was nom­i­nated as FBI di­rec­tor by Trump, faced 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 Clin­ton’s use of a pri­vate email server that ended with­out crim­i­nal charges.

When asked about Trump’s harsh tweets, Wray re­but­ted him directly, say­ing, “My ex­pe­ri­ence has been that our rep­u­ta­tion is quite good.”

Wray ex­pressed 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.

The White House on Thurs­day tried to soften Trump’s mes­sage, deny­ing any dis­crep­ancy be­tween his com­ments and those of the FBI di­rec­tor.

WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY

FBI chief Christo­pher Wray fended off po­lit­i­cal ques­tions from con­gress­men.

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