In its 82-year history, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has taken great pride in the fact that it operates independently of the political winds of the moment. President Trump in word and deed has challenged that independence more than any other president since Nixon, and perhaps more than even him.
In a new report, Axios discloses that FBI director Christopher Wray has felt such intense pressure from the administration that he threatened to resign after only six months on the job. Wray became director following Trump’s controversial firing of James Comey, which many interpreted as an effort to undermine the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Andrew McCabe, Wray’s deputy, has drawn the president’s ire both for his involvement in the Mueller investigation and for his handling of the FBI’s review of Hillary Clinton’s emails during the 2016 campaign, which ended in no charges filed. Republican members of Congress have also called for McCabe to resign; he is said to be planning to retire later this spring.
The pressure this time seems to have come from the Department of Justice. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, already in the hot seat with the president over his recusal from the Russia investigation, urged Wray to fire McCabe. When Wray rejected the directive and threatened to resign, Axios reports, Sessions spoke to White House counsel Don McGahn. McGahn reportedly recommended that Sessions back off, on the grounds that a second FBI Director departure would be more harmful than gratifying for the Trump White House.
Meanwhile, the president shows no sign of leaving the career officials at the Bureau to do their work in peace. This morning, via Twitter naturally, he renewed criticism of a former member of Mueller’s team who texted derogatory comments about Trump another FBI employee with whom he was romantically involved.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 23, 2018
With the full power of the Presidency, Donald Trump is relentless in his drive to politicize the FBI. Key to the effort is trying to purge the Bureau of any and everybody who might be even remotely suspected of favoring to continuing investigating him.
This raises anew one of the most important questions about Mr. Trump and his Presidency. That is, what does he have to hide that he believes can be so damaging to him? By word and deed, he has demonstrated time and again from the beginning of his term that there is something–perhaps several somethings–that terrorizes him with fear of it being revealed.
We may never find out what it is. Certainly not if Mr. Trump succeeds in purging and politicizing the FBI and discrediting the Mueller investigation.