Christopher Wray may be a glass-half-full kind of guy, but he’s working for a decidedly glass-half-empty boss. Two of them, in fact, but one in particular made his displeasure known with the FBI director very publicly this morning, who gave an oddly cheery interview after the publication of Inspector General Michael Horowitz’ report on the FBI’s handling of Operation Crossfire Hurricane. The biggest takeaway, Wray told ABC News last night, was that the investigation was properly predicated and not a “deep state” operation, even if the report showed areas where the FBI needed to improve:
In an exclusive broadcast interview with ABC News, Wray lamented “actions described in this report that [he] considered unacceptable and unrepresentative of who we are as an institution.” But, he said it was “important that the inspector general found that, in this particular instance, the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization.” …
Wray did not respond directly to the president, but pushed back on the “Deep State” characterization of the bureau’s work.
“I think that’s the kind of label that’s a disservice to the men and women who work at the FBI who I think tackle their jobs with professionalism, with rigor, with objectivity, with courage,” Wray said. “So that’s not a term I would ever use to describe our work force and I think it’s an affront to them.”
Wray finds himself in a tough spot. He has to run the FBI on a day-to-day basis, which requires some bidirectional loyalty and support at its executive and managerial levels. The report did offer a limited absolution about the initiation of the investigation, although Horowitz also questioned why the FBI never thought to consult the Department of Justice first before opening a probe of a major-party presidential nominee’s campaign.
Given Horowitz’ limited scope and jurisdiction, however, John Durham will have the final word, and Durham has already publicly dissented from those conclusions. “Last month,” Durham said in a statement, “we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.” Wray might well end up with some egg on his face.
Even apart from the predication issue, the FBI and its top echelons took a beating from the IG over its handling of the most controversial parts of its investigation. Horowitz dismantled the Christopher Steele dossier in detail, and excoriated the FBI for its apparent uncritical use of it to seek a FISA surveillance warrant on Carter Page. In the latter, Horowitz identified 17 lies and material omissions in the warrant applications from the FBI, which hardly paints a picture of a credible and reliable law-enforcement agency. Horowitz declined to offer much speculation on the motives for those lies and omissions, but it seems extremely unlikely that they were all due to inadvertent error.
In fact, Horowitz has launched a full audit of the FBI’s handling of other FISA warrant cases to see if those abuses are chronic. In a way, Wray had better hope that they are. If they turn out to be peculiar only to Operation Crossfire Hurricane, then that will raise even more questions about the motives involved in surveilling a Trump campaign adviser for what turned out to be no good reason.
With all that in mind, Wray’s cheerleading for the FBI seems odd indeed, and Donald Trump blasted him for it this morning on Twitter:
Clearly, Trump wasn’t looking for a yay team response from the FBI director after the publication of the report. He likely wanted a we’re gonna clean house response, which probably would have been more appropriate under the circumstances. And he might not be the only boss Wray has who’s unhappy with his response, either:
Attorney General William Barr on Monday rejected a key conclusion of an investigation conducted by his own agency’s watchdog that a probe into Russian interference into the 2016 election was justified.
Barr, in a lengthy statement, called the FBI’s investigation into Moscow’s interference “intrusive” and said it had been launched “on the thinnest of suspicions” — even though the Justice Department’s inspector general report released Monday concluded that the overall probe was justified and not motivated by politics.
“The Inspector General’s report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken,” Barr said.
He added that “the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory.”
Barr sounds as though he’s not going to be terribly confident in Wray’s grasp of the situation either. When Durham completes his investigation, the question will be whether Wray gets to stick around to implement any of the reforms. Will it take even that long to decide? Jonathan Swan wonders:
A former senior White House official, who lived through the Comey firing, texts: “I hope he’s not traveling to any conferences today. If Schiller shows up at the front desk he’ll know.” https://t.co/Zu3IerWlup
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) December 10, 2019