Two major figures at the FBI are either leaving or entering new phases in their careers, even as President Donald Trump has spent the pre-Christmas weekend posting tweets that attempt to discredit them and the agency itself while it continues its probe into the Trump-Russia scandal.
James A. Baker, who is one of the longest serving national security officials in government and has been the head of the FBI’s Office of General Counsel, told his colleagues in an email on Wednesday that he had been reassigned, according to The Washington Post. Although Baker expected to be replaced as far back as August, when FBI Director Christopher Wray took over the FBI after Trump fired former director James Comey, Baker's reassignment seemed to have occurred after the FBI has been repeatedly attacked by Republicans determined to paint the agency as biased against Trump. Sources claimed the reassignment was unrelated to a probe into the leaking of surveillance techniques about an email provider, which had seemingly involved Baker himself but ultimately went nowhere.
Comey himself took to Twitter on Friday to defend his former colleague.
In similar news Andrew McCabe, who currently serves as deputy director of the FBI, is expected to retire in early 2018, according to The New York Times. This has conveniently helped Trump move closer to achieving a goal of removing the leadership team that surrounded Comey. McCabe had served as deputy director since January 2016 and was in that position when the FBI opened the Trump-Russia investigation in July of the same year.
A White House official claimed in a statement last week that many of the FBI's top officials were "politically motivated," a statement that presumably encompassed McCabe as well as other FBI officials that have been in power at the agency during the the investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal. Republicans have been trying to validate these assertions by pointing to text messages exchanged by senior counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok and lawyer Lisa Page that insulted Trump, although those texts also insulted a number of other politicians from both parties.
The attempts to discredit McCabe as well as Baker prompted Comey to retweet a post by Brookings Institute's Benjamin Wittes on Saturday, one asking people to donate to the FBI Agents Association in McCabe's and Comey's name.
Despite the Trump White House's repeated claims that the FBI is politically motivated in its probe of their activities, prior to the 2016 election a report in The Guardian described the FBI as "Trumpland" and pointed out that many agents hated Hillary Clinton and were outraged that the investigation into her email scandal hadn't resulted in criminal charges. A source also told the news outlet that many FBI agents viewed Clinton as "the antichrist personified." It is also worth noting that polls strongly suggest that Comey's decision to release a letter which announced the FBI was revisiting Clinton's email scandal less than two weeks before the 2016 election played a crucial role in her defeat.