U.S. President Donald Trump continued his running criticism of the FBI, lamenting the current state of the Bureau and expressing his plans to rebuild the nation’s top law enforcement agency.
The comments came as President Trump left the White House for a speech he was scheduled to give at the FBI training academy in Quantico, Virginia. CNBC also reported that the comments made by President Trump came less than an hour after an aide said that the newly released FBI records show that there was “extreme bias” against Trump among senior leadership at the FBI.
President Trump labeled the recently released text messages between two FBI agents involved in the Robert Mueller Russia probe as “disgraceful.” Without citing any specifics, President Trump added that there was an extraordinary “level of anger” directed to the FBI over the investigation.
“It’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI, but we’re going to rebuild the FBI,” Trump said as he prepared to board the presidential helicopter to travel to Marine Base Quantico, home of the FBI’s national academy for law enforcement officers, where he later gave a speech at the Bureau’s graduating ceremony.
“It is very sad. When you look at those documents and how they have done that — is really, really disgraceful,” he said, referring to the latest reports from the FBI. President Trump’s administration, as well as a large majority of the Republican Party, have been targeting the credibility of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Recently released FBI reports containing the controversial text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page are believed to be a clear indicator of an extremely negative bias that has been surrounding President Trump well before his candidacy.
Trump’s distaste for the FBI and its “disorganization” isn’t anything new – he frequently commented on the mismanagement of the Bureau by James Comey, FBI’s former director he fired back in May.
When asked about whether he would pardon Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI earlier this month, President Trump said:”I don’t want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet. We’ll see what happens.”
How does one rebuild the FBI?
Last week, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said that despite his tweets describing the FBI as being “in tatters,” the president supported Christopher A. Wray, the current FBI director. Sanders said that the Bureau’s rank-and-file agents also have his full backing and that the issues he has are solely with the top brass who served under James Comey. She also added that the President’s characterization of the Bureau was not meant to undermine the people’s faith in the institution.
The President’s long-stated belief that the Justice Department investigation into connections between his campaign and Russia is a “witch hunt” drastically contrasted Wray’s recent testimony. According to the New York Times, Wray defended the FBI before Congress, telling its 35,000 agents and support staff that he was “inspired by example after example of professionalism and dedication to justice demonstrated around the bureau.”
While speaking to the press, President Trump said that “It’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI, but we’re going to rebuild the FBI,” promising that he will make it “bigger and better than ever.” However, it was not clear what he meant by his promise and how exactly he planned on restructuring the nation’s principal federal law enforcement agency.
A change in leadership has already taken place, and with many prominent Republican figures agreeing with Trump that former director Comey had damaged the institution, the entire weight of the Bureau’s reputation has fallen on Wray’s shoulders. However, with Trump breaking with the longstanding precedent and not attending Wray’s swearing-in ceremony in September, it’s hard to say how much support the new director can expect from the President.
We are yet to see just how effective Trump’s rebuilding will be. Despite the change in leadership, it will be very hard to reconstruct such a large and far-reaching institution from the top down. With the text messages released earlier this week showing a clear anti-Trump feeling in the FBI, creating a nonpartisan climate within the Bureau will take much more than replacing the top management.