President Donald Trump seems to be planning a purge in the FBI — and it may be working.
One of the FBI's top bureau lawyers, James Baker, is going to be replaced by Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia and acting head of the Justice Department’s national security division, according to The Washington Post. Boente is perhaps best known for replacing Acting Attorney General Sally Yates when she was fired by Trump for refusing to defend his travel ban against individuals from several predominantly Muslim countries. He later served as deputy attorney general before taking on his current duties in the Justice Department. Although Baker's replacement by Boente could face obstacles, given his willingness to support Trump's more controversial policy decisions, Boente was also appointed as U. S. attorney by President Barack Obama, which could strengthen his claim to being nonpartisan.
FBI Director Christopher Wray will also replace his current chief of staff, Jim Rybicki, with Zachary J. Harmon. Harmon used to work with Wray at the law firm King & Spalding, where he is the head of the anti-corruption practice. Harmon also has experience as a former federal prosecutor.
One concern about the slew of replacements is that they could indicate Trump is continuing to try to meddle into the FBI's investigation of his campaign's alleged collusion with Russian government officials. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reportedly been trying to push both Baker and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe out of the FBI at Trump's urging, even though McCabe had previously said he will leave early this year once he is eligible for his pension. Trump has long denounced McCabe as a Democrat and even asked him whether he voted for Clinton or himself, shortly after the president fired former FBI Director James Comey in May, according to The Washington Post.
McCabe said the conversation was "disturbing," according to the Post.
Some of the president's partisans have joined him in calling on Wray to replace individuals deemed insufficiently loyal to the president, even though Wray reportedly threatened to quit if he was compelled to lead a purge.
"And Christopher Wray says not only am I not going to get rid of him, if you make me, I'm going to quit. So everything — I guess he's backed off. Why does he have an allegiance to McCabe? Why wouldn't you want a fresh start?" Brian Kilmeade, the co-host of one of the president's favorite shows, "Fox & Friends," said on Tuesday.
Trump's efforts to eliminate FBI personnel for seemingly political reasons has echoes of the slippery slope his critics accused him of going down when he fired Comey in May.
"That's the reason why the director of the FBI has a 10 year posting, which is to make it non-political, so that the FBI director does not have to answer to any particular administration or to any political party," Jeffrey Ringel, a 21-year veteran of the FBI and director of The Soufan Group, told Salon Talks in May. "The FBI needs to stay above the political fray and be non-partisan and impartial in their investigation."