Trump says ‘jury’s still out’ on FBI boss Wray – despite Barr defense

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In a Fox News interview Friday, President Trump was noncommittal on whether FBI Director Christopher Wray would remain in the job following the Justice Department’s decision to drop its case against Michael Flynn.

“Let’s see what happens with him,” the president told “Fox & Friends,” adding that “the jury’s still out” on Wray’s future in the bureau.

Trump said he would leave the decision up to Attorney General William Barr, head of the Justice Department, which oversees the FBI.

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“You know, I told Bill Barr, you handle it,” the president said. “I would be absolutely entitled in theory, as the chief law enforcement officer, in theory. But I said, ‘You know what, I want Bill Barr to handle it,” adding that the attorney general “has done an unbelievable job.”

Need to 'step up'

One day earlier, Barr appeared to defend Wray during an interview with CBS News, although he claimed that both he and Wray needed to “step up” following the Flynn case.

“You know, he's been a great partner to me in our effort to restore the American people's confidence in both the Department of Justice and the FBI,” Barr said Thursday, according to the Washington Examiner. “And we work very well together. And I think both of us know that we have to step up. That it's very important to restore the American people's confidence.”

In the same interview, Barr said he still had confidence in Wray’s ability to do the job.

“Well, you know, Chris Wray has always supported and been very helpful in various investigations we've been running,” Barr told CBS. “But, you know, there are a lot of cases in the Department of Justice, and I don't consider it the director's responsibility to make sure that all the documents are produced in each case. So I don't — I wouldn't say that this has affected my confidence in Director Wray.”

Also defending Wray on Friday was Brian O'Hare, president of the FBI Agents Association.

The director “continues to lead through unprecedented challenges with a steady hand,” O’Hare told The Washington Post, credting Wray with making “the changes needed to ensure that the FBI is best positioned to deal with threats to the American people.”

On Thursday, Barr’s Justice Department moved to drop its case against Flynn, the former U.S. national security adviser who had pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI. The decision followed the release of documents that called into question the handling of the Flynn case by FBI personnel.

On the same day, the FBI’s top prosecutor in the case, Brandon Van Grack, abruptly withdrew, without explanation.

Pressure from Republicans

Prior to the Justice Department dropping the Flynn case, several Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the Trump administration placed pressure on Wray following the release of the documents, which included handwritten notes from former FBI official Bill Priestap that showed FBI personnel had debated whether they should try to catch Flynn in a lie during a conversation at the White House on Jan. 24, 2017 – just days after President Trump took office.

Although Wray did not become FBI director until August of that year – succeeding James Comey, whom Trump fired in May 2017 – Republicans including Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mike Johnson of Louisiana earlier this week questions why Wray hadn’t previously divulged information about the Flynn case that wasn’t made public until earlier this week.

“It is well past time that you show the leadership necessary to bring the FBI past the abuses of the Obama-Biden era,” the congressmen wrote in a letter to Wray on Monday.

On Wednesday, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway called on Wray and Comey to fully disclose what they know about the Flynn case.

“We have every need to know transparently what happened,” Conway told Fox News.

On Thursday, documents released in connection with the Justice Department’s motion to drop the Flynn case revealed that former President Barack Obama had been aware of details of intercepted December 2016 phone calls between Flynn and then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

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In statements to the Washington Examiner, Brian Hale, the FBI’s assistant director for the Office of Public Affairs, said that recently released documents from the Flynn case had previously been made available to the inspector general of the Justice Department and to U.S. Attorney John Durham, who had been appointed by Barr to investigate the origins of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Hale also underscored that Wray was not with the bureau at the time of the Flynn investigation.

“The Flynn investigation was initiated and conducted during this time period, under prior FBI leadership,” Hale said. “Since taking office, Director Wray has stressed the importance of strictly abiding by established processes, without exception. Director Wray remains firmly committed to addressing the failures under prior FBI leadership while maintaining the foundational principles of rigor, objectivity, accountability, and ownership in fulfilling the Bureau’s mission to protect the American people and defend the Constitution.”

Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer and Gregg Re contributed to this story.