Trump Lashes Out at FBI Over Text Messages and "Scam Probes Into Collusion"
President Donald Trump unloaded Friday on the FBI's role in the Russia investigations, decrying the probes as a “scam” and “Democrat hoax” that has wasted “millions and millions of dollars“ that hasn’t come up with any evidence of collusion between his 2016 campaign and Moscow.
Speaking to reporters before boarding Marine One to travel to a law enforcement graduation ceremony at the FBI’s National Academy in Quantico, Virginia, Trump also took issue with a series of frank text messages exchanged between two FBI employees who referred to him last year as an “idiot” and then later got assigned to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia team.
“It’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI, but we’re gonna rebuild the FBI. It’ll be bigger and better than ever,” Trump said. “But it is very sad when you look at those documents, and how they’ve done that is really, really disgraceful. And you have a lot of very angry people that are seeing it. It’s a very sad thing to watch, I will tell you that.”
At the Quantico event, Trump was briefly introduced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been subjected by the president to repeated public scoldings following his decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe, paving the way for Mueller's appointment.
The attorney general referred to the president as "our nation's highest law enforcement official," an unusual designation, and said he'd be clear in his instructions about how to run the Justice Department, which oversees the FBI.
“The day I was sworn in as attorney general, he sent us an order. You got to know, he knows how to send a clear order,” Sessions said. “The order was: reduce crime in America.
At a press conference at the Justice Department later Friday, Sessions gently pushed back against Trump's repeated attacks on the FBI.
"I believe the FBI is doing a great job around the country," the attorney general said in response to a question. "They're partnering with the state and local law enforcement, our DEA and our ATF agents and we're reaching higher level of unity and sophistication, I think, than we ever have."
Asked again about Trump's statement that the FBI is "in tatters," Sessions was a bit more direct. “I don’t share the view that the FBI is functioning—is not functioning at a high level all over the country.”
Sessions didn't offer much commentary about the anti-Trump text messages or the broader issues surrounding Mueller's probe, but the attorney general boasted about the ample information the Justice Department has handed over to Congress as it digs into those matters.
"We want to be open with them," Sessions said. "We recently provided Congress with text messages between an FBI agent and an FBI lawyer working on the investigation into the 2016 presidential election and the Clinton email server. We're going to do more—as much as we can."
Sessions also noted that Justice had turned over information to lawmakers on allegations regarding Hillary Clinton and the Uranium One firm, as well as what he called the "fusion center" issue—an apparent reference to controversy over private investigation firm Fusion GPS' preparation of an intelligence dossier on Trump funded by Clinton's campaign and the Democratic party.
Without giving specifics, Sessions said that any officials who have acted improperly will be held to account.
"We will not be reluctant to admit error. We will not hide and be excessively defensive," the attorney general said. " We will never fail to monitor our people. We are going to insist on the high standards of behavior, even the church treasurer is not protected from review. Everybody has to be accountable and responsible. You can have arrogance seep into an institution and that's not acceptable.
However, the attorney general also appeared to suggest that some of the most fevered accounts of alleged misconduct by Justice Department personnel may go too far.
"I got to tell you sometimes things that might appear to be bad in the press have innocent explanations. So, fairness and justice should also be provided to our personnel," Sessions said.