Christopher Wray testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on his nomination to be the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the Dirksen...
MANDEL NGAN

Political mess surrounds Jeff Sessions, FBI Director Wray

Updated

Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure former FBI Director James Comey are well documented and appear to be the subject of an ongoing investigation. Indeed, there’s reason to believe Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team are examining whether the president obstructed justice when he leaned on the then-bureau chief before firing him.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/22/18, 9:08 PM ET

Wray threatened to quit over pressure to fire McCabe: Axios

Benjamin Wittes, MSNBC legal analyst, talks with Rachel Maddow about a new Axios report that FBI Director Wray stood up to pressure from A.G. Sessions to fire Deputy Director McCabe and threatened to quit over the matter.
The new question, as Rachel explained on last night’s show, is the political pressure Comey’s successor may now be facing. The Washington Post  reported overnight:

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray has been resisting pressure from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to replace the bureau’s deputy director, Andrew McCabe, a frequent target of criticism from President Trump, according to people familiar with the matter. […]

Sessions, Republican lawmakers and some members of the Trump administration have argued for weeks that Wray should conduct some kind of housecleaning by demoting or reassigning senior aides to his predecessor, Comey, according to people familiar with the matter. These people added that Sessions himself is under tremendous political pressure from conservative lawmakers and White House officials who have complained that the bureaucracy of federal law enforcement is biased against the president.

The trouble, of course, is that this Republican campaign against FBI and Justice Department officials – one GOP lawmaker recently called for a “purge” of officials who may be insufficiently deferential to the White House – is absurd.

This is especially true of McCabe, who was part of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email protocols and whom Trump and the far-right have targeted as a compromised partisan because his wife ran for state office in Virginia as a Democrat. The FBI scrutinized the allegations and determined the deputy director didn’t have any conflicts of interest.

And yet, the partisan push to create more favorable conditions for Trump among federal law enforcement officials continues – up to and including reported pressure from the attorney general to the director of the FBI.

Axios reported last night that Wray responded to the pressure by “threatening to resign if McCabe was removed.” No other news outlet, including NBC News, has confirmed this.

Nevertheless, there are key elements of the controversy that seem quite clear. We know Trump and his allies have targeted – in some cases, publicly – top federal law enforcement officials. We can also point to multiple reports that the attorney general, perhaps eager to satisfy the demands of a president who holds him in low regard, has pressured the FBI director to make politically motivated personnel changes.

If the reported accounts are accurate and Wray has resisted the political pressure, that’s encouraging. But it’d be even better if the FBI director didn’t face political pressure from Sessions and others in the first place.

FBI, Jeff Sessions and Justice Department

Political mess surrounds Jeff Sessions, FBI Director Wray

Updated