The White House has expressed confidence in FBI Director Christopher Wray following reports that Wray threatened to resign rather than give in to indirect pressure from President Donald Trump to fire his top deputy, Andrew McCabe.
“The president has complete confidence in Director Wray. He put him there for a reason, and he sees fit to let him run that agency. And he thinks he’s doing a great job, and he’s glad he’s there,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told VOA.
The Axios news website first reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, at Trump’s urging, was pressuring Wray to remove McCabe and other members of former FBI Director James Comey’s inner circle, amid allegations that senior agency officials had shown political bias in their professional work.
Axios, noting that the firing would have created a media firestorm, reported that the White House relented after Wray pushed back against the pressure.
Trump has on several occasions fired off Tweets expressing displeasure with McCabe, noting that the FBI official’s wife received $700,000 in campaign contributions from what he described as “Clinton puppets” when the official’s wife ran for statewide office in Virginia as a Democrat, and noting with approval that McCabe is eligible to retire with full benefits in March.
Sanders Tuesday declined further comment on McCabe, except to note that he is expected to leave the agency soon.
“He’s already in the process of retirement, and I don’t have further comment on that other than to say the president wants Director Wray to make the decisions that he sees fit and sees necessary to run his agency,” she said.
Trump on Tuesday kept up his Twitter pressure on the nation’s premier law enforcement agency, noting that FBI officials have admitted that they cannot locate thousands of text messages between two senior officials accused of displaying anti-Trump bias in their work on investigations involving the president.
“In one of the biggest stories in a long time, the FBI now says it is missing five months worth of lovers Strzok-Page texts, perhaps 50,000, and all in prime time. Wow!”
The latest Trump tweet comes days after Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter to Wray asking to explain why it failed to preserve the text messages between Peter Strzok, the top FBI counterterrorism official, and agency attorney Lisa Page.
Strzok, who was also the lead investigator on the FBI team looking into Hillary Clinton’s email server, was removed from the Trump Russia probe months ago after it was discovered that he and Page, who were linked romantically, had disparaged Trump in text messages during the presidential campaign. The missing texts cover a five-month period from shortly after the election through May 2017.
Page had left Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team before the text messages were discovered.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal last month, Trump called Strzok’s behavior “treasonous.”
As Republicans in Congress stepped up efforts to learn more about allegations of political bias at the FBI, Attorney General Sessions Monday vowed to get to the bottom of the missing text issue.
“We will leave no stone unturned to confirm with certainty why these text messages are not now available to be produced and will use every technology available to determine whether the missing messages are recoverable from another source,” Sessions said. “If we are successful, we will update the congressional committees immediately.”
Sanders last week expressed confidence that Wray would act to remove what she called “problematic” leadership at the FBI that she said has biased Mueller’s Russia probe.
“We’re glad that Director Wray is there. We feel like he’s going to clean up some of the messes left behind by his predecessor. And we look forward to this [Russia probe] concluding soon and showing what we’ve been saying all along, that there’s nothing to see here and certainly no collusion.”