Faced with a president who places a premium on loyalty, the FBI is gently asserting its independence. Donald Trump is seeking to pull the bureau into two of the most heated political controversies of his tenure: The probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the sexual assault allegations that have jeopardized Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.
But FBI officials aren’t acquiescing to Trump’s demand for the “immediate declassification” of some materials related to the Russia investigation and are likely to push for redactions. And the agency is willing to probe the claims against Kavanaugh — despite Trump’s assertions to the contrary — but it can’t do so without a formal White House request.
The tensions add to an already fraught relationship between the president and the law enforcement agencies he oversees and who he and his allies have accused of political bias. Trump reportedly unsuccessfully sought a loyalty pledge from former FBI Director James Comey, who he later fired. He has also repeatedly attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions for failing to quash the Russia investigation.
Trump’s actions are testing the mettle of FBI Director Christopher Wray, who has vowed to defend the agency’s work from political manipulation.
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