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Senate Republicans defend FBI director after Trump lashes out

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“I’ve got confidence in the FBI director,” said Senate Intelligence Committee ChairmanRichardBurr (R-N.C.). “Chris Wray’s processed what I think is very legitimate concerns about the way the bureau handled things and I think he’s in the process of realigning procedural changes that will assure everybody it shouldn’t happen in the future.”

“He’s great,” concurred Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) “I have nothing negative to say about him. I don’t think the president should be dumping on him. I think he’s excellent.”

Republicans and conservatives in recent days have castigated the FBI, following the release of a 400-page IG report which, among other things, skewered the law enforcement agency’s handling of a court-ordered surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

But the report also undercut Republican arguments that the FBI launched the probe because of a political bias against the president. In response to the IG report, Wray, who was not director when the FBI began the investigation, acknowledged the probes “were opened in 2016 for an authorized purpose and with adequate factual predication.” That did not go over well with Trump, who tweeted: “I don’t know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but it sure wasn’t the one given to me.”

Trump dug in even further at a rally in Pennsylvania Tuesday night, saying “you have great people in the FBI, but not in leadership.”

Some Republicans viewed Trump’s comments as nothing more than another disagreement between the president anda memberof his administration. The president has long criticized the “deep state” intelligence community, which he believes is undermining him, and lashed out at Jeff Sessions, his former attorney general.

It’s“not all that different from other members of the administration who sometimes have had differences of opinion with the White House on a particular matter,” said Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), who described Wray as “a very capable public servant.”

“I hope they can resolve whatever differences they have and both people can continue to do their jobs,”he added.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) suggested that Trump’s tweets may be related to Wray’s response to the IG report, but “that’s separate from his overall job performance.”

The Senate confirmed Wray to become FBI director in a 92-5 vote in August 2017 — an unusually bipartisan confirmation for a Trump nominee. The president tapped Wray to lead the FBI after he fired Comey in May 2017.

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe served as interim acting director when there was pressure to install a new leader there to give the agency stability. McCabe, however, was fired in 2018.

Given that the FBI has had three directors since Trump took office, Republicans are not exactly eager to replace Wray and create more instability at the law enforcement agency.

“I certainly hope that there is consistent leadership at the FBI,” said Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kans.), who oversees the Appropriations subcommittee that allocates government funding to the agency.

Even Trump’s strongest Senate defenders like Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) did not go after Wray. Graham instead said Wednesday he still has confidence in the FBI director. But during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday on the IG report, Graham had a word of caution for Wray, who was not present.

“Director Wray, you’ve got a problem,” Graham said. “We’ve got to fix it. And the way we fix it is listen to [Inspector General Michael] Horowitz and get the director of the FBI in here to try to find out a way to make sure this never happens again to any politician in this country.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has also slammed the FBI for its handling of the 2016 probe, said he plans “to wait to know whether the president’s statement about Wray is accurate,” until the FBI director appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a followup to Wednesday’s hearing.

Grassley said he still has confidence in Wray but added, “you might ask me after the next hearing: I might give you a different answer.”

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