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

Secretive FISA court orders FBI to fix surveillance standards in wake of IG report

Inspector General Horowitz. Photo: Michael Brochstein/Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court accused the FBI Tuesday of misleading it in its applications for the surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, and ordered the bureau to explain by Jan. 10 what it plans to do to ensure such abuses do not take place again.

Why it matters: It's a rare public rebuke by a court that has traditionally been veiled in secrecy, underscoring the seriousness of the misconduct uncovered by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

Go deeperArrowDec 17, 2019

Apple signals fight over access to Pensacola shooter's iPhones

Photo: Apple

In a situation that greatly resembles the aftermath of the 2015 San Bernardino shooting, the Justice Department wants access to encrypted iPhones tied to the Pensacola, Fla. Naval Air Station shooting. Apple, for its part, is strongly hinting it will challenge a demand to do so.

Why it matters: The San Bernardino standoff ended without a legal determination when the FBI withdrew its request. Whether law enforcement has the right to access encrypted data on smartphones remains unsettled and is one of the most hotly debated issues in tech, with no clear middle ground.

Go deeperArrowJan 14, 2020

Judge schedules Michael Flynn's sentencing for Jan. 28

Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

A federal judge has set President Trump's first national security adviser Michael Flynn's sentencing for Jan. 28, dismissing allegations by his defense attorneys that he was entrapped by prosecutors into accepting a plea deal.

The big picture: Flynn, who pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to FBI agents about his interactions with the Russian ambassador, was the first Trump associate to face charges in the Mueller investigation but among the last to be sentenced.

Go deeperArrowDec 16, 2019