Inside the FBI: Anger, worry, work — and fears of lasting damage

In the 109 years of the FBI’s existence, it has repeatedly come under fire for abuses of power, privacy or civil rights. From Red Scares to recording and threatening to expose the private conduct of Martin Luther King Jr. to benefiting from bulk surveillance in the digital age, the FBI is accustomed to intense criticism.

What is so unusual about the current moment, say current and former law enforcement officials, is the source of the attacks.

The bureau is under fire not from those on the left but rather conservatives who have long been the agency’s biggest supporters, as well as the president who handpicked the FBI’s leader.

.. Wray’s defenders say there is a more strategic reason for the new director’s approach — by relying on long-standing law enforcement policies and procedures, he believes the FBI can navigate through the current political storms and get back to a position of widespread trust across the political spectrum, according to people familiar with his thinking.

.. “Following established process is important,” one person said. “Process can protect us.”

.. Comey’s firing shocked the FBI’s workforce. In the aftermath, many employees posted pictures of him at their desks or other workspaces.

.. Others express doubts about emulating Mueller’s detached approach, worried that Wray’s calculation not to publicly spar with the president may lead to a gradual erosion of the bureau’s reputation and clout.

.. On Friday, over Wray’s objection, Trump authorized the release of the Nunes memo and declared, “A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves and much worse than that.’’

.. He has called his own attorney general “beleaguered” and claimed the bureau’s reputation was “in tatters.”

.. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said on Fox News there was “evidence of corruption — more than bias but corruption — at the highest levels of the FBI,” and pointed to texts between two key officials who were once assigned to both the Clinton and Trump probes suggesting a “secret society” at the FBI. Those messages about a “secret society” are now widely seen to be a joke, but that has not diminished Republicans’ fervor

.. it conducts criminal investigations independently and without regard to the will of the chief executive. Trump has defied that norm. He asked Comey for a vow of loyalty, then inquired with Andrew McCabe, who replaced Comey after Trump fired him, for whom he voted.

.. The memo itself, though, doesn’t prove the case. It doesn’t have the kind of evidence in it that you would need to see to say that there was an abuse of that authority.”

..  While the president might now feel he wants the bureau under his firm control, Hosko said, he might regret that if a like-minded president took office and ordered investigations of Trump or his family.

.. Current and former law enforcement officials expect the struggle for control of the FBI to intensify.

.. “Republicans think this is just part of the war they are fighting.”

As Washington Churns, the World Grows More Dangerous

North Korea, China and Russia pose growing tests for a beleaguered administration

When a president appears weak, distracted or in trouble, as President Donald Trump does right now, the effects on international affairs can play out on many fronts. First, adversaries may feel more emboldened to challenge a besieged American leader. That may be a miscalculation, but the odds of miscalculation go up at such times.

.. Second, there always is the suspicion that a president embattled at home is looking for a distraction abroad. Even if there’s a real crisis, there would be charges the White House is pumping it up to divert attention. “Wag the Dog” suspicions are never far beneath the surface.

.. Third, when a president is thought to be distracted or in trouble, Congress steps in to fill what it perceives to be a void. That’s what happened during Watergate, when lawmakers voted to cut funding for the war in Vietnam and passed the War Powers Act to limit a president’s hand in military operations abroad.
.. Mr. Trump is right when he says China hasn’t done what it could to curb North Korea: At this point, Beijing’s true intentions have to be considered suspect. The grim reality, though, is that China’s balkiness leaves few options, and no good ones, for dealing with the threat.