President Trump is making plans to visit FBI headquarters, a White House spokeswoman said Thursday, in his first direct encounter with the agency's rank-and-file personnel after the stunning decision to fire James B. Comey as director.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told CBS News that Trump would “very likely” make the trip in the coming days. The New York Times, citing an administration official, had earlier reported that Trump was considering visiting the FBI’s Washington headquarters on Friday.
Trump's reception at the FBI will be closely watched to gauge the mood within the FBI, which is leading the investigation into possible contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. Already there are signs of FBI pushback. One intelligence official who works on Russian espionage matters told The Washington Post that agents were more determined than ever to pursue probes into the alleged Russian interference in the presidential election.
Trump had “essentially declared war on a lot of people at the FBI,” another official told the Post. “I think there will be a concerted effort to respond over time in kind.”
In his only public statement so far, Trump told reporters Wednesday that he dismissed Comey because he “wasn’t doing a good job.”
Meanwhile, the White House has struggled with mixed messages over details of Trump's decision.
Sanders, the White House spokeswoman, said Trump was troubled by what she called “atrocities” by Comey in overseeing the FBI's probe of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state.
Private accounts from nearly three dozen White House staffers and others, however, portrayed Trump as festering with rage over Comey's public comments and priorities.
In a detailed narrative by The Post, the staff members described Trump as angry that Comey would not support his baseless claim that President Barack Obama had his campaign offices wiretapped. Trump was frustrated when Comey revealed in Senate testimony the breadth of the counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s effort to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And he fumed that Comey was giving too much attention to the Russia probe and not enough to investigating leaks to journalists.
In a message to FBI staff late Wednesday, Comey wrote: “I have long believed that a President can fire an FBI Director for any reason, or for no reason at all. I’m not going to spend time on the decision or the way it was executed. I hope you won’t either. It is done, and I will be fine, although I will miss you and the mission deeply.”
He added that “in times of turbulence, the American people should see the FBI as a rock of competence, honesty, and independence.”