President Donald Trump has struggled to articulate a second-term agenda. But there’s one thing he can’t wait to do if he wins another four years in the White House: abandon his FBI Director Christopher Wray, whom he throws in private as a tool of a supposed “deep state” .
In the past three months, before testing positive for COVID-19, the president had told several senior officials and close associates that he intended to replace Wray near the start of a second term, regularly expressing his dissatisfaction with the director’s performance and his apparent reluctance. to quickly eliminate Trump’s perceived enemies in the office, said two people familiar with the president’s private remarks. One of those sources said that when the issue of Wray’s alleged subversion was raised last month, Trump said the issue would be resolved “next year,” which this source took to mean after the 2020 election, assuming Trump emerges victorious.
Trump’s desire to get rid of Wray is strong enough that this summer he sought recommendations from close advisers on who they think he should choose as a replacement, knowledgeable sources said. One said he provided Trump with “some suggestions” but declined to name names. None of those people who had spoken to President de Wray recently could recall mentioning anything to him about the impeachment of the FBI Director. before the November election.
The political calendar complicates Wray’s layoff plans. If Trump throws it out in the interim period before the new Congress is sworn in, or if Republicans retain control of the Senate, Trump can afford to potentially lose a handful of Republican votes when the candidate runs for confirmation. If Democrats take control of the Senate and Trump retains office, it will be more difficult to place a loyalist in office.
As Axios reported in May, efforts by prominent Trumpworld figures to convince the president to fire Wray, which was confirmed by an overwhelming Senate vote, intensified rapidly this year. At the end of last month, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows openly mocked Wray in an interview with CBS, saying the FBI director “was having trouble finding emails in his own FBI let alone to determine if there was any form of voter fraud. Last week, after the Director of National Intelligence circulated Russian disinformation accusing Hillary Clinton of fabricating allegations that Russia meddled in the 2016 election on behalf of Trump, Trump’s ally representative, Doug Collins (R-Ga.), A called Wray an “accomplice” and demanded his resignation. . Wray joined the FBI about a year after the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation began.
Conservative media darling and lawyer Joe DiGenova, who has unofficially advised Trump, told the Daily Beast on Wednesday night that the current FBI director was “ completely inadequate and not up to the challenge of reforming the FBI, ” arguing that Wray should have delivered a speech to FBI officials after the ouster of his predecessor, James Comey, about how he was “embarrassed by previous leaders.” By not doing so, argued the Trump loyalist, Wray “sent a signal that what came before was OK.” He is not a leader.
DiGenova, who said her preferred choice for the next manager was former New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, said: “I hope Christopher Wray will be removed from his post tomorrow.
Wray had a tough tenure in the FBI after being hired by Trump to replace Comey in 2017. Trump and his allies accused the FBI of misconduct for investigating Trump’s links to Russian interference in the 2016 election – some deserved it. This is only intensifying in 2020, as Wray’s FBI has been notable for its absence from the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security crackdowns on protests in Washington, DC and Portland, Oregon.
But Wray has been particularly out of step with the president’s priorities in recent weeks. He accurately testified that the antifa was more of a “movement or ideology” – anti-fascism – than the terrorist organization that Trump describes. He stressed that Russia poses a particular danger to the 2020 election interference. Like the FBI, he warned that white supremacist violence was the main domestic terrorism threat to the United States. And he undermined Trump’s disinformation campaign that postal voting is a vector of electoral theft, telling Congress on behalf of the FBI that there was no evidence of “coordinated national electoral fraud.”
The FBI director’s continued public disagreements with Trump and Wray’s reluctance to settle Trump’s accounts further reinforced the president’s desire to impeach Wray, Trump’s relatives have said.
In the past three weeks, a source close to Trump said that the president suddenly brought up Wray in an unrelated conversation, citing critical TV comments he had recently watched, including that of the Fox Business star and of Trump’s confidant, Lou Dobbs, who saved the office manager. Dobbs regularly broadcasts segments portray Wray as the leader of an infamous Obamagate “cover-up”. The host pitched the idea of indicting Wray this summer.
The FBI declined to comment for this story, as did two of Wray’s friends. White House spokespersons did not respond to requests for comment.
Many, but not all, retired FBI agents view Wray as a bulwark against Trump, turning a national investigative agency with enormous power over American freedom into a White House aide. At a time when Trump has put loyalists atop crucial security agencies – John Ratcliffe as Director of National Intelligence, Chad Wolf as Acting Homeland Security Secretary and Attorney General Bill Barr – there are concerns of what a re-elected Trump will order for a post. Wray FBI to do.
Wilfred Rattigan, a retired FBI special agent, said his colleagues still in the office told him tensions with Trump were constant distractions.
“Morale is going down. Instead of focusing on their mission and mandate, they care about what comes out of the White House next, ”Rattigan said. “Has Wray gone out, who is going to replace him, are we going to go back to where we were before?” It’s a distraction.
Rattigan saw previous directors clash with presidents, as Louis Freeh did with Bill Clinton in the 1990s. But he said the situation with Trump was different.
“If your leaders are entangled with the White House over who should and should not be investigated and when, what kind of message does this send to the troops?” he said.
Michael German, another retired FBI special agent, pointed out that Wray’s statements – and the actions of the office – are less opposed to Trump than Trump’s loyalists think.
“The idea that the FBI in general or Director Wray in particular are anti-Trump or oppose Trump’s policies is ludicrous, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump believes that to be true,” German said. , now at the Brennan Center for Justice. .
In the same testimony to Congress where Wray described the antifa fleetingly, he contradicted himself by saying that the antifa was merging into “small regional groups or nodes” that the FBI is actively investigating. The FBI has also been documented interviewing arrested protesters in New York City to find exploitable links to the antifa.
“They are trying to fabricate a conspiracy case against anti-fascist groups by interrogating detainees and researching information, rather than focusing on white supremacist militants who move from state to state without much intervention by law enforcement. German said.
Brian O’Hare, president of the Association of FBI Agents and FBI Special Agent Group, declined to comment on the Trump-Wray relationship and praised Wray’s tenure. “Director Wray is committed to the truth and focused on the facts. He led the Office through unprecedented challenges with a steady hand, ”said O’Hare.
German added that Wray had the “institutional interests of the office as a top priority,” but noted that those interests hardly conflict with those of Trump – at least when the FBI is not specifically investigating the president.
“If you talk to Black Lives Matter activists or Standing Rock water protectors or environmentalists, the FBI has certainly been aggressive in its crackdown on investigations,” German said. “I imagine it could get worse.”
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