President Trump Escalates Criticism of FBI Role in Russia Inquiry
Posted December 15, 2017 10:34 a.m. EST
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump escalated his criticism of the FBI on Friday over its investigation of possible links between Russia and his campaign, calling the inquiry a “very sad thing to watch.”
“It’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI,” the president told reporters before departing for an event at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. “It’s a very sad thing to watch.”
Without citing specifics, Trump said there was an extraordinary “level of anger” at the FBI over the investigation. He labeled “disgraceful” recently released text messages between one of the agents on the investigation and a lawyer for the bureau who were critical of him. The special counsel, Robert Mueller, removed the agent from the investigation as soon as he learned of the texts.
The president also said it was premature to discuss whether he would pardon Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser who pleaded guilty this month to lying to the FBI in connection with the investigation.
Trump has shown open disdain for the FBI, saying that the standing of the nation’s premier law enforcement agency was the “worst in history” and its reputation was in “tatters.”
Last week, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said that the president supported the FBI director, Christopher A. Wray, and rank-and-file agents — but that he had issues with top brass who served under the previous FBI director, James Comey, whom the president fired in May.
She also said that the president’s characterization of the bureau “in tatters” would not undermine people’s faith in the institution.
Wray, in testimony to Congress recently, strongly defended the FBI, 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.”
But the president’s criticism was notable because of his long-stated belief that the Justice Department investigation into links between his campaign and Russia was a “witch hunt.”
He was to speak later Friday morning to the FBI National Academy, a bureau program that offers advanced training for U.S. and foreign law enforcement officers who have been recognized for their leadership potential.