Washington: Donald Trump’s aides advised him not to fire FBI Director Chris Wray after the election because an acting director — or President-elect Joe Biden’s replacement — might be even more adversarial to the president and his agenda, according to people familiar with the matter.
Trump has grown wary of Wray, believing the FBI director should have more aggressively investigated the president’s political opponents, including Biden and his family, before November’s election.
NBC News reported Wednesday that the White House counsel’s office advised Trump that firing Wray could put him in potential legal jeopardy, raising questions about potential obstruction of justice similar to the controversy that followed Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey in 2017.
But Trump was ultimately swayed by arguments from other advisers that the political consequences of firing Wray would be worse than keeping him in place, according to several people familiar with the conversations. They asked not to be identified because Trump has never publicly acknowledged that he considered firing the current FBI director.
Trump was told that Wray’s deputies — who would take leadership of the bureau after his termination — would be unlikely to reverse course on law-enforcement decisions that had frustrated the president. The current deputy director of the FBI, David Bowdich, is a 25-year veteran of the agency.
Moreover, the aides argued, Biden would be able to nominate a new FBI director, someone who might be politically loyal to the new president and hostile toward Trump or less willing to pursue investigations potentially damaging to Democrats.
Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, disclosed this month that his foreign business activities and related tax matters are under investigation by federal law enforcement authorities. Biden said Wednesday that he’s confident his son did nothing wrong.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Attorney General William Barr was aware of the Hunter Biden investigation earlier this year but acted to prevent its public disclosure before the election. Trump has expressed frustration with that decision, and Barr announced Monday that he will depart the administration on Dec. 23.
Some of the president’s allies have worried that the Biden administration may pursue criminal investigations into the president and his family, though the president-elect has said that’s not his priority. Trump has said he’s not concerned, but he has nonetheless held a series of meetings and conversations about potential pardons during his final days in office, including the possibility of granting preemptive clemency to his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
Trump has also discussed pardons for his three eldest children, the New York Times reported.
Wray was among several officials Trump considered firing in the aftermath of his re-election defeat. The president and his advisers also discussed the possible dismissal of CIA Director Gina Haspel and Barr.
Trump followed through with firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and he fired the Department of Homeland Security’s cyber chief, Chris Krebs, after Krebs publicly stated that the election was secure, undermining the president’s effort to portray the outcome as fraudulent.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the president’s personnel deliberations. – Bloomberg