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The White House has abandoned the idea of President Trump visiting FBI headquarters after being told he would not be greeted warmly, administration officials told NBC News.
Amid the continuing fallout over his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, Trump was considering an appearance at the FBI’s J Edgar Hoover Building in downtown Washington, DC. The White House publicly floated the idea as recently as Thursday morning.
Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, asked by a reporter whether such a visit was imminent, replied, I believe that it’s very likely that takes place sometime in the next few days.”
But that idea was dropped later Thursday, administration officials said, after the FBI told the White House the optics would not be good. FBI officials made clear that the president would not draw many smiles and cheers, having just unceremoniously sacked a very popular director.
And FBI agents said that, while many of them voted for Trump, after the president unceremoniously fired a very popular director, few were ready to meet him at the bureau with open arms.
"My sense is most FBI employees feel a loyalty to Comey," one person who works at headquarters told NBC News. "And whether they agree or disagree with the way he handled the email case, like and respect him ... Trump would not be well-received at headquarters."
On Wednesday, Huckabee Sanders said, "the president will be meeting with Acting Director [Andrew] McCabe later today to discuss that very thing — the morale at the FBI — as well as make an offer to go directly to the FBI if he feels that that’s necessary and appropriate."
Senior White House officials later walked that back slightly, telling NBC News that while Trump was “weighing” a visit to the FBI building, the details were still being worked out in the morning. By Thursday afternoon the plan had been completely nixed.
Comey’s dismissal on Tuesday came as a shock to the political world.
In a letter to FBI employees, Comey said he wouldn’t spend time thinking about why and how the president fired him, and told his former colleagues to do the same.
Comey called the bureau a “rock” for America, and said he hopes it will continue to uphold the Constitution.
"I have said to you before that, in times of turbulence, the American people should see the FBI as a rock of competence, honesty, and independence," Comey wrote in his farewell letter. "What makes leaving the FBI hard is the nature and quality of its people, who together make it that rock for America."