FBI Director Christopher Wray defends agency after Trump tweet

Image: FBI Director Christopher Wray is sworn in before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington
FBI Director Christopher Wray is sworn in before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 7, 2017.Aaron P. Bernstein / Reuters

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By Pete Williams

FBI Director Christopher Wray offered a spirited defense of his agency before Congress on Thursday, four days after President Donald Trump said its reputation was "in tatters."

Wray, who was appointed by Trump to succeed James Comey, appeared before the House Judiciary Committee and was clearly prepared for questions about the tweet.

Asked about it, he spoke for two minutes without notes.

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"The FBI that I see is tens of thousands of agents and analysts and staff working their tails off to keep Americans safe from the next terrorist attack, gang violence, child predators, spies from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran," Wray said.

"The FBI that I see is respected and appreciated by our partners in federal, state, and local law enforcement, in the intelligence community, and by our foreign counterparts in both law enforcement and national security in something like 200 countries around the globe," he added.

On Dec. 3, Trump tweeted, "After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters — worst in History!"

Related: FBI head seems to confirm wiretap warrant requests in Russia probes

Wray spent most of the hearing deflecting questions from House Republicans about how Comey handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails. Wray explained that the Justice Department's inspector general is now preparing a report on that subject and that he would withhold comment until that work is done.

In the same vein, he told committee Democrats that he could not discuss aspects of the investigation into potential Russian meddling in the presidential election, because that work is being done by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Asked about his own independence, he said Trump did not ask him for a pledge of loyalty and has not contacted him about the Russia investigation.