Trump attacks handpicked FBI director for accepting results of inspector general report on Russia

“With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken," the president tweeted

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published December 10, 2019 5:45PM (EST)

U.S. President Donald Trump (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump lashed out at his handpicked Christopher Wray on Tuesday after his handpicked FBI director did not put a positive spin on a Justice Department inspector general report that refuted many of his allegations about the origins of the Russia probe.

Though inspector general Michael Horowitz’s long-awaited report criticized FBI agents for their handling of a surveillance application for former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, it debunked Trump’s claims that the bureau had “spied” on his 2016 campaign and the Russia probe was prompted by an anti-Trump bias.

Trump immediately went into spin mode, claiming that the report actually found information “far worse than what I ever thought possible."

“This was an attempted overthrow, and a lot of people were in on it. And they got caught,” Trump claimed despite the investigation clearing many of the FBI officials whom he repeatedly attacked. “It’s a disgrace what’s happened with the things that were done to our country.”

Attorney General William Barr issued a statement refuting his own department’s nearly two-year investigation, claiming that the FBI opened the probe on “the thinnest of suspicions” that “were insufficient to justify the steps taken" in his view.

U.S. attorney John Durham, who was handpicked by Barr to investigate the origins of the investigation, also issued a statement claiming that he does “not agree with some of the report's conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.”

But Wray broke with the administration when he accepted the findings of the extensive inspector general investigation.

Wray, who was appointed by Trump after he fired former FBI Director James Comey, lamented that the "actions described in this report that [he] considered unacceptable and unrepresentative of who we are as an institution."

At the same time, he told ABC News it was "important that the inspector general found that in this particular instance, the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization."

Trump alleged that the FBI investigation was a “made up scam” by the “criminal deep state.” While Wray did not directly mention Trump, he told ABC the “deep state” label was offensive.

"I think that's the kind of label that's a disservice to the men and women who work at the FBI, who I think tackle their jobs with professionalism, with rigor, with objectivity, with courage," Wray said. "So that's not a term I would ever use to describe our work force, and I think it's an affront to them."

Asked whether he thought the FBI unfairly investigated Trump’s campaign, Wray replied: “I do not.”

Wray also pushed back on the president’s conspiracy theory that Ukraine — not Russia — had interfered in the 2016 election.

“We have no information that indicates that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 presidential election,” Wray told the outlet, adding that “as far as the [2020] election itself goes, we think Russia represents the most significant threat.”

Trump in turn accused Wray of possibly reading the wrong report and having an attitude problem that prevented him from stamping out corruption.

“I don’t know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but it sure wasn’t the one given to me,” the president tweeted. “With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken despite having some of the greatest men & women working there!”

It was not the first time Trump complained that his FBI chief had not touted the administration’s talking points. When Wray broke with Trump and Barr earlier this year by saying he would not use the term “spying” to describe the FBI’s dealings with the Trump campaign, the president slammed him for giving a “ridiculous answer.”

Washington Post columnist and political science professor Brian Klaas noted that Trump’s remarks were an example of “how disinformation works.”

“The president invents conspiracy theories which are amplified by Fox News & Republicans trying to get on Fox News,” he tweeted. “Then, a neutral report debunks the conspiracy theories, but they all just lie and pretend it vindicates them instead. Rinse, repeat.”

Former State Department official Richard Stengel urged others to “speak out like Director Wray.”

“It shouldn't take such courage to simply speak the truth like Director Wray, but other Republicans and political appointees must follow his lead,” he wrote on Twitter. “Follow the law.”

Multiple current and former Trump administration officials told Axios’ Jonathan Swan that Trump “would like to” fire Wray but “can’t stomach the trouble of firing another FBI director.”

Still, one former senior White House official told Swan that Wray could find himself unceremoniously ousted just like Comey.

“I hope he’s not traveling to any conferences today,” the official joked of Wray. “If Schiller shows up at the front desk he’ll know.”

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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