It’s been D.C. shorthand for many years: when a president publicly expresses confidence in an official in his employ, that official probably isn’t at risk of losing his or her job. When a White House hedges on a president’s confidence in administration officials, they should probably give their resumes an update.
With this in mind, FBI Director Chris Wray has new reason to be concerned about his job security.
President Trump on Monday declined to say he has confidence in Christopher Wray and stressed that he disagrees with the FBI director, who has said he does not believe there was spying on the president’s 2016 campaign.
“Well, we’ll see how it turns out,” Trump said in an exclusive interview with The Hill when asked about his level of confidence in Wray.
It’s a striking comment from a sitting president referring to his own handpicked FBI director, but it’s also not surprising.
Last fall, NBC News reported that Donald Trump has been known to privately complain about his FBI chief, arguing behind the scenes that Chris Wray was “not protecting his interests.” As regular readers know, the president’s dissatisfaction has become far more overt of late.
A month ago, for example, Trump whined via Twitter that the FBI “has no leadership,” a not-so-subtle shot at the man he handpicked to oversee the bureau. Two days later, the president complained that it was “ridiculous” for Wray to balk at the White House’s conspiracy theory about the Trump campaign being spied on in 2016.
Reminded two weeks later that Wray has encouraged Americans aware of foreign efforts to intervene in our elections to contact federal law enforcement, Trump declared, “The FBI director is wrong.” (The FBI was not, in reality, wrong.)
To be sure, trying to predict Trump’s future decisions is folly. Maybe he’s thinking about firing another FBI director; maybe the president makes comments like these as a way of trying to lobby Wray to be a more reliable partisan member of Team Trump.
Either way, when a president is asked whether he has confidence in the man he tapped to lead the bureau, and that president hedges, it’s not a good sign.