BOSTON (CBS) – “I want you to deliver a message to your fellow officers – the President of the United States has your back 100 percent,” said President Donald Trump Friday as he addressed local law enforcement officials at the FBI training academy in Virginia.
That was a staple message of the Trump campaign. But it was a bit jarring to hear it just minutes after the president, speaking to reporters outside the White House, launched an attack on the integrity of the FBI’s handling of the Russia investigation, calling it “a shame” and “disgraceful.”
What’s the rhetorical whiplash all about? Leaked text messages between an FBI agent, Peter Strzok, who was working on the Russia probe, and an agency lawyer, contained disparaging references to politicians including Bernie Sanders and Mr. Trump.
According to congressional testimony by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the Trump appointee who hired ex-FBI Director Robert Mueller to look into the Trump-Russia connection, “Mr. Strzok was already working on the investigation when the special counsel was appointed. The appointment that I made was for Robert Mueller. So what I’d recommend that you tell your constituents is that Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein and [current FBI chief] Chris Wray are accountable and that we will ensure that no bias is reflected in any of the actions taken by the special counsel or in any matter within the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice. When we have evidence of any inappropriate conduct, we’re going to take action on it. And that’s what Mr. Mueller did here. As soon as he learned about this issue, he took action.”
But that’s not good enough for the president and his allies, who’ve seized on the disparaging texts as “evidence” of nefarious activity by Mueller.
“We’re going to rebuild the FBI, it’ll be bigger and better than ever,” says Mr. Trump. “But it is very sad when you look at those documents, and how they’ve done that is really, really disgraceful.”
Added Judicial Watch CEO Tom Fitton during a Fox News interview this week: “Forget about shutting down Mr. Mueller, do we need to shut down the FBI because it was turned into a KGB-type operation?”
The KGB was the former name of the Soviet-era secret police, believed to be responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. That’s some pretty tough rhetoric being thrown at the FBI, perhaps reflecting the difficulty of the jam the president and his allies now find themselves in.