For months, President Trump has been attacking the FBI as an agency in crisis, including tweeting on Sunday that the FBI “is in tatters.”
On Thursday, FBI Director Christopher Wray finally fired back.
Speaking during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the FBI, Wray said, “What I can tell you is that the FBI that I see is tens of thousands of agents and analysts and staff working their tails off to keep Americans safe from the next terrorist attack, gang violence, child predators, spies from Russia, North Korea, and Iran.”
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the committee’s ranking member, asked Wray to comment on Trump’s broadside: “Will you respond to this tweet by the president? Is the FBI’s reputation in tatters?”
Wray continued: “The FBI that I see is tens of thousands of brave men and women who are working as hard as they can to keep people that they will never know safe from harm.”
Wray’s pushback is significant. Trump has a vested interest in tarnishing the FBI’s reputation. After all, former FBI Director James Comey testified in June that the president had tried to get him to stop looking into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Trump’s “in tatters” tweet on Sunday was aimed at Comey’s leadership of the agency.
But despite Wray’s defense, the FBI does have its share of problems. It’s under scrutiny for considering what it calls the “black identity extremist” movement as a domestic terrorist threat. And it’s now at the center of a political firestorm after reports that former top FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok sent text messages critical of Trump to a colleague while he worked for special counsel Roberts Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Wray admits the FBI still has issues to resolve. “Now, do we make mistakes? You bet we make mistakes,” he said, adding that there are processes in place to hold people accountable.
But, he added, if the FBI doesn’t have the president’s respect, the agency has the respect of other American and foreign institutions. “The FBI that I see is respected and appreciated by our partners in federal, state, and local law enforcement, in the intelligence community, by our foreign counterparts, both law enforcement and national security in something like 200 countries around the globe,” Wray said.
You can watch Wray’s remarks below in a video from CBS News.