The J. Edgar Hoover Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) building stands in Washington, D.C., Aug. 8, 2013.
Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty

Trump escalates FBI fight with conspiracy theories, attacks on ‘scum’

Updated

Donald Trump’s antagonistic relationship with FBI Director Christopher Wray – whom the president personally chose for the job – has been simmering for months, though it appeared to reach a striking new level yesterday. After Wray had the audacity to say accurate things about Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s findings about the investigation into the Russia scandal, the president made little effort to hide his disgust.

Complaining about the bureau director saying true things, Trump complained on Twitter, “With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken.”

Hours later, during a campaign rally in Pennsylvania last night, the president escalated his offensive against federal law enforcement, telling his followers:

“You have great people in the FBI, but not in leadership. You have not good people in leadership, you haven’t had. When the FBI uncovered evidence showing that we did absolutely nothing wrong – which was right at the beginning – hey hid that exonerating [evidence]. You know that, they hid it. They hid it so nobody could see it, so they could keep this hoax going on for two years.”

Trump didn’t specify who, exactly, these “not good people” in the FBI leadership are, though it’s worth noting for context that the bureau is currently led by a director, deputy director, associate deputy director, and chief of staff, each of whom were elevated to their current posts during the Trump era.

As for the president’s bizarre conspiracy theory about the FBI deliberately hiding exonerating evidence, there is no evidence of such a conspiracy; the Justice Department’s inspector general determined that there was no such conspiracy; and if there’s evidence exonerating Trump, it’s hiding well.

The Republican went on to say FBI officials “destroyed the lives” of “good people.” The president added, “Their lives have been destroyed by scum.”

There’s a precedent for administrations butting heads with federal law enforcement, but a sitting president referencing “scum” at the FBI is a new one.

As we discussed yesterday, it was just last week when Attorney General Bill Barr suggested those who fail to show proper respect for law enforcement may not deserve the protection of law enforcement. As Trump targets the FBI, are we to assume the attorney general will apply these same principles to the president?