Dec 16, 2019

FBI director under Carter and Reagan slams Trump and Barr

Judge William Webster, former FBI and CIA director. Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

William Webster, a former federal judge and the former director of both the FBI and the CIA, said in a New York Times op-ed that President Trump and Attorney General William Barr's attacks on the FBI are "troubling in the extreme."

"Calling FBI professionals 'scum,' as the president did, is a slur against people who risk their lives to keep us safe. Mr. Barr’s charges of bias within the FBI, made without providing any evidence and in direct dispute of the findings of the nonpartisan inspector general, risk inflicting enduring damage on this critically important institution."

Driving the news: On Sunday, former FBI director James Comey argued that the FBI was "vindicated" by the Justice Department inspector general's finding that the Russia investigation was justified and not politically motivated. However, he also admitted he was "wrong" about serious failures the watchdog found in the FBI's surveillance process.

  • Trump, who has consistently attacked FBI leadership and promoted the conspiracy theory that the Russia investigation was an attempted "coup," questioned the inspector general's credibility on Sunday and suggested that Comey could go to jail.
  • Barr has also disputed the inspector general's conclusions about the origins of the Russia investigation, calling it "completely baseless" and asserting that his hand-picked prosecutor John Durham will have the final word.

Other highlights from Webster's op-ed:

  • "I am deeply disturbed by the assertion of President Trump that our 'current director' — as he refers to the man he selected for the job of running the FBI — cannot fix what the president calls a broken agency."
  • "The president’s thinly veiled suggestion that the director, Christopher Wray, like his banished predecessor, James Comey, could be on the chopping block, disturbs me greatly. The independence of both the F.B.I. and its director is critical and should be fiercely protected by each branch of government."
  • The country can ill afford to have a chief law enforcement officer dispute the Justice Department’s own independent inspector general’s report and claim that an F.B.I. investigation was based on “a completely bogus narrative.” In fact, the report conclusively found that the evidence to initiate the Russia investigation was unassailable."
  • "This difficult moment demands the restoration of the proper place of the Department of Justice and the F.B.I. as bulwarks of law and order in America. This is not about politics. This is about the rule of law. Republicans and Democrats alike should defend it above all else."

Go deeper: Comey defends FBI but admits FISA failures: "I was wrong"

Go deeper

Updated 28 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden: George Floyd's last words are "a wake-up call for our nation"

Former Vice President Joe Biden meets with clergy members and community activists during a visit to Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Del. on June 1, 2020. Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Vice President Joe Biden is calling George Floyd’s dying words “a wake-up call for our nation,” and criticized President Trump’s decision to unleash tear gas on peaceful protesters outside the White House, in a civil rights speech from Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Why it matters: Biden in the address drew a sharp contrast between himself and Trump, whose first remarks addressing nationwide unrest Monday highlighted law and order, extreme demonstrations of militarized “strength” and other blustery threats.

Updated 36 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11 a.m. ET: 6,302,318 — Total deaths: 376,322 — Total recoveries — 2,716,924Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 11 a.m. ET: 1,812,125 — Total deaths: 105,192 — Total recoveries: 458,231 — Total tested: 17,340,682Map.
  3. Public health: Protests against police brutality threaten coronavirus response.
  4. Business: Coronavirus could lower GDP by $15.7 trillion — More than 1 in 6 black workers lost jobs between February and April.
  5. Climate: The alarm over climate financial risk gets louder because of coronavirus.
  6. Media: Interest in the George Floyd protests has soared past the coronavirus.

The business of tear gas

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

U.S. forces yesterday used tear gas on peaceful protesters outside the White House gates, prior to a declared curfew, clearing a path for President Trump to visit a riot-damaged church for a photo opportunity.

The state of play: Two of the largest U.S. producers of tear gas are owned by private equity firms, but those firms have no interest in discussing their ownership.