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FBI agents’ union slams Trump, says the shutdown is harming national security

“The important work done by the Bureau needs to be funded immediately.”

President Trump walks past uniformed officers. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The union for FBI agents is out today with a new letter urging Congress to pass a funding bill to reopen the Department of Justice so that its members can get paid.

They don’t weigh in on the larger border security debate between the White House and congressional Democrats (unlike the Border Patrol union). Instead, they come down in line with the view of Democratic leaders (and some Republican senators): The important thing is to reopen the government — “the important work done by the Bureau needs to be funded immediately,” they write — and allow any negotiations over other issues to proceed on a separate track.

FBI special agents, like other federal law enforcement personnel, are deemed “essential” and keep working without pay during government shutdowns. On Friday, January 11, they will officially miss their paychecks for the first time, so it’s become an urgent matter.

That agents would rather get paid then not get paid is pretty obvious. But the letter raises two additional issues. One is that if agents’ families end up in credit trouble due to missing pay, that could undermine their security clearances. The other is that ongoing FBI operations have financial costs beyond agents’ salaries and that the cash is going to run out.

See the whole letter below:

We, the undersigned, are proud FBI Special Agents. Today, we write in our capacity as the volunteerleadership and chapter representatives of the FBI Agents Association (“FBIAA”), a professionalorganization representing nearly all active duty Special Agents. FBIAA members elected us, and we represent all FBI field offices. We are the only dedicated voice for the nearly 13,000 active FBI Special Agents, the vast majority of whom are members of the FBIAA.

On Friday, January 11, 2019, FBI Agents will not be paid due to the partial government shutdown, but we will continue our work protecting our nation. We urge our elected representatives to fund the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the FBI because financial security is a matter of national security:

1. FBI Special Agents are subject to high security standards that include rigorous and routine financial background checks to ensure that Agents are financially stable and responsible. Missing payments on debts could create delays in securing or renewing security clearances, and could even disqualify Agents from continuing to serve in some cases.

2. The operations of the FBI require funding. As the shutdown continues, Special Agents remain at work for the American people without being paid, and FBI leadership is doing all it can to fund FBI operations with increasingly limited resources—this situation is not sustainable. The important work done by the Bureau needs to be funded immediately.

3. Pay uncertainty undermines the FBI’s ability to recruit and retain high-caliber professionals. Special Agents are skilled professionals who have a variety of employment options in the private sector. The ongoing financial insecurity caused by the failure to fund the FBI could lead some FBI Agents to consider career options that provide more stability for their families.

The men and women of the FBI proudly serve this nation and are honored to protect our country and Constitution from all threats, foreign and domestic. We are confident that our leaders share this commitment to protecting our country and will find a path forward to fund the DOJ and the FBI. As those on the frontlines in the fight against criminals and terrorists, we urge expediency before financial insecurity compromises national security.

Trump, of course, has widely touted the Border Patrol union’s support not just for his wall initiative but for the specifics of the shutdown as a tactic. But the Border Patrol is not the only law enforcement agency working without pay, and law enforcement in general is an important Trump constituency. So open clashes with the direct, material interests of rank-and-file agents is a risky scenario for Trump.