Remember that by law FBI directors serve a 10-year term provided that the president doesn’t cut that term short by firing them. Which … happened once before in recent memory. And, if you believe the pre-election reporting, is highly likely to happen again soon.
Imagine, though: If Trump surprises everyone by leaving Wray in place, Wray could stick around long enough to greet him when he returns to the White House in 2025.
I’m not surprised that Biden is inclined to keep him on. It’s been said ad nauseam but it bears repeating that Biden ran as a guy who would restore pre-Trump norms of government to the White House. Before Trump, FBI directors didn’t get fired. In particular, FBI directors weren’t booted like other cabinet personnel routinely are when a new president takes office. The point of a 10-year term is to insulate the director (somewhat) from partisan shifts in control of the White House and to encourage stability at the agency. If Biden dumped Wray in order to appoint a handpicked FBI chief, he’d be flouting those principles. So he’s stuck with him.
…unless Trump frees his hand by nuking Wray first.
The [Biden] official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said Mr. Biden’s team was “not removing the F.B.I. director unless Trump fired him” — signaling a return to pre-Trump norms of continuity at a core domestic law enforcement agency that is supposed to operate without political meddling…
Mr. Trump appointed Mr. Wray, a Republican who served in President George W. Bush’s administration, to succeed Mr. Comey. But the president soured on Mr. Wray soon after he assumed the job, complaining that he wasn’t moving fast enough to rid the bureau of officials installed by Mr. Comey.
The president’s anger at Mr. Wray has grown since then, reaching new heights during the summer, when he wanted to dismiss Mr. Wray once documents related to the case of the former national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, were declassified by other officials. Mr. Trump believed that Mr. Wray had delayed declassifying documents related to the Russia investigation.
Trump has a dilemma here. If he’s aiming to spite Biden, and I’m sure he is because that’s how he rolls, is he better off firing Wray or leaving him in place? Leaving him be means Biden would be saddled with an FBI chief chosen by Trump himself, although that’s not much of a burden since Wray has never been a Trump loyalist. If anything, he’ll be ecstatic to find himself working for Biden instead. On the other hand, if Trump fires Wray, Biden’s all set up to choose an FBI chief to his own liking. Trump would practically be doing him a favor.
There’s a third possibility. Trump could fire Wray and then move quickly to replace him with an ardent Trumpist, knowing that Joe “Norms” Biden would be reluctant to fire a new FBI chief who’s just a month or two into the job. That would really stick it to the Democrat! Just one problem, though. Which “ardent Trumpist” is sufficiently qualified to be director of the FBI such that they could expect to survive a confirmation vote in a 52/48 Senate? Would Romney, Murkowski, and Collins even entertain the idea of confirming a new Trump nominee to a 10-year term with six weeks left in his presidency?
I think the president’s stuck choosing between leaving Wray alone or gifting Biden with a free choice for FBI. In fact, I wonder if the Biden advisor who told the Times that Biden would keep Wray on was trying to use reverse psychology on Trump. Surely that person knows that the Biden seal of approval for Wray is apt to make Trump feel even more antagonistic towards his FBI chief. They’re probably trying to bait Trump into firing him so that they can choose their own director. I bet he obliges.
Allegedly Wray’s foremost protector inside the federal government is Bill Barr, which is another bad omen for him. Barr’s on the sh*t list now too, after all:
President Trump and his allies are piling extreme pressure on Attorney General Bill Barr to release a report that Trump believes could hurt perceived Obama-era enemies — and view Barr’s designation of John Durham as special counsel as a stall tactic, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios…
Within Trump’s orbit, sources told Axios, Tuesday’s revelation was seen as a smokescreen to forestall the release of the so-called Durham report, which senior administration officials believe is already complete — and which Barr had ruled out issuing before the election…
Trump has been ranting about the delay behind the scenes and mused privately about replacing Barr with somebody who will expedite the process. But it’s unclear whether he will follow through with that, per sources familiar with the conversations.
Barr’s public declaration yesterday that the DOJ’s found no evidence of widespread voter fraud (so far!) may end up being the kiss of death. The president’s media allies and cronies, always so influential in shaping his opinions, were scathing in their criticism of him last night. Greg Kelly of Newsmax wondered whether Barr is “a warrior with the Constitution or if he’s just a bureaucrat.” The always conspiratorial Lou Dobbs went so far as to suggest that Barr had been “compromised.” Cruelest of all, Roger Stone — whose sentence Barr tried to reduce before it was commuted — sniffed that “Bill Barr’s job is to block for the ‘deep state.’” Instead of asking whether Wray will be fired, we should probably be asking whether he or Barr will be fired first.
I’ll leave you with Kayleigh McEnany from today’s White House briefing. She’s asked at the very end of the clip if the president still has confidence in Barr. Her answer is … noncommittal.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany says the Trump campaign still has active cases challenging election results. Attorney General William Barr said on Tuesday that the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread voter fraud pic.twitter.com/KukSWPBBv9
— Shakthi Vadakkepat (@v_shakthi) December 2, 2020
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