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Trump signals impatience with FBI director’s cooperation with reviews of Russia investigation

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray speaks at the White House last month.
FBI Director Christopher A. Wray speaks at the White House last month. (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Trump took a swing at his FBI director, Christopher A. Wray, on Thursday, expressing impatience with the bureau’s level of cooperation with inquiries into its investigation of the Trump campaign in 2016.

Speaking by phone with Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business, Trump railed against past investigations of his former adviser Carter Page, his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and his own conduct as president.

Asked whether Wray was withholding FBI documents that could shed more light on those cases, Trump noted there was an election coming up before saying: “I wish he was more forthcoming. He certainly hasn’t been. There are documents that they want to get and that we have said we want to get. We are going to find out if he’s going to give those documents. Certainly, he’s been very, very protective.”

The president then added: “Let’s see how Wray turns out. He’s going to either turn out one way or another.”

An FBI spokesman declined to comment on the president’s criticism Thursday, but the bureau has said previously that it is cooperating with such requests, including congressional subpoenas, “consistent with our law enforcement and national security obligations.”

Conservatives have long called for the Trump administration and Congress to “investigate the investigators,” and the president’s remarks are the latest instance in which he has publicly chastised current law enforcement officials for not more ­aggressively pursuing the former officials who investigated him.

Two Republican-led Senate committees are investigating the FBI’s handling of the Russia case, underscoring how the partisan battles over 2016 and the politicization of the Justice Department are still raging four years later.

Also Thursday, the chairman of one of those investigating committees, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a Trump ally, said Wray has assured him that witnesses and documents will be provided for Graham’s investigation of the FBI.

“I believe the Director is committed to being helpful — in an appropriate manner — by balancing the needs of privacy for Bureau employees with public transparency for the benefit of the American people,” Graham said in a statement. “Director Wray expressed to me his commitment to holding accountable those who may have committed violations of law or policy, providing appropriate due process sooner rather than later.”

The president’s criticism of his FBI director comes amid the backdrop of an ongoing inquiry by Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham into how the FBI and other intelligence agencies pursued evidence of Russia’s election interference in 2016.

The FBI also investigated whether any Trump associates conspired with Russians to interfere in the election, a case that was handed to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who ultimately concluded that there was insufficient evidence to accuse anyone close to Trump of participating in such a conspiracy.

Barr says he won’t wait until after the election to release report on FBI investigation of the Trump campaign

Trump and his backers have argued that a group of liberal-leaning government officials conspired to hamstring his presidency by pursuing false accusations.

He has called former senior FBI officials “dirty cops” and urged that they be charged with crimes. The president has also expressed impatience waiting for Durham to release his findings.

On Thursday, that impatience appeared to also be directed at Attorney General William P. Barr.

“Bill Barr has the chance to be the greatest of all time, but if he wants to be politically correct, he’ll be just another guy, because he knows all the answers, he knows what they have, and it goes right to Obama and it goes right to Biden,” said Trump, alluding to his frequent accusation that the Obama White House directed the investigation of his campaign, something that officials in the Obama administration and the Justice Department at that time have denied.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment Thursday on Trump’s comments about the attorney general.

Barr has been highly critical of the investigation of the Trump campaign, and his department is seeking to dismiss the case against Flynn, who previously pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with a Russian ambassador but is now fighting that case.

Barr has said he will not wait until after November’s election to release whatever Durham finds.

It is unclear, however, whether Durham will finish his work before November, and Democrats have raised alarms that if such a report were released before the election, it could unfairly influence voters.

Barr said on Fox News on Thursday that there will be “significant developments before the election,” but he insisted prosecutors were “not going to do anything inappropriate before the election.” He added that there will be a “development in the case” Friday but played down its significance.  

“It’s not an earth-shattering development, but it is an indication that things are moving along at the proper pace, as dictated by the facts in this investigation,” Barr said.