Ex-Justice Department officials defend FBI after Trump says bureau is 'in tatters'

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor
Former Attorney General Eric Holder, former FBI Director James Comey and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News: photos; AP (2), Steven Senne/AP, AP)

President Trump’s assertion that former FBI Director James Comey destroyed the bureau’s reputation isn’t sitting well with Comey and other former members of the Justice Department.

“After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters – worst in History!” Trump tweeted on Sunday. “But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness.”

Comey responded with a quote from his June 8 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I want the American people to know this truth,” Comey said then. “The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. And the FBI is, and always will be, independent.”

The former FBI director’s tweet included a collage of photos showing federal investigators at work.

Eric Holder, Barack Obama’s attorney general, tweeted that he would not allow Trump’s disparaging tweet slide.

“Nope. Not letting this go. The FBI’s reputation is not in ’tatters,’” Holder wrote on Twitter. “It’s composed of the same dedicated men and women who have always worked there and who do a great, apolitical job. You’ll find integrity and honesty at FBI headquarters and not at 1600 Penn Ave right now.”

Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general, also bristled at Trump’s assertion.

“The FBI is in ‘tatters’? No,” Yates tweeted. “The only thing in tatters is the President’s respect for the rule of law. The dedicated men and women of the FBI deserve better.”

Both Comey and Yates were fired by Trump. The president dismissed Yates in January after she refused to defend his travel ban. The White House has had shifting explanations for firing Comey, initially accusing him of being too publicly critical of Hillary Clinton while investigating her, but Trump later said he terminated Comey for being a “showboat.” Comey has said that he believes he was fired because of the FBI’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

At the time, the White House also said that Comey left the FBI disorganized and with low morale, though then-acting Director Andrew McCabe contradicted that claim. Trump ultimately appointed Christopher Wray to replace Comey, and the Senate confirmed him.

Comey’s firing also came after he said Trump asked him to drop the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. In May, Yates testified that she warned White House counsel Don McGahn in late January that Flynn “essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.”

Thomas O’Connor, president of the FBI Agents Association, also bristled at Trump’s characterization.

“Each and every day, FBI special agents put their lives on the line to protect the American public from national security and criminal threats,” O’Connor said in a statement. “Agents perform these duties with unwavering integrity and professionalism and a focus on complying with the law and the Constitution. This is why the FBI continues to be the premier law enforcement agency in the world. FBI agents are dedicated to their mission; suggesting otherwise is simply false.”

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