White House Humiliates Freeh
McCurry says FBI director is doing the 'best he can'
By Wolf Blitzer/CNN
WASHINGTON (Dec. 4) -- It's been building behind the scenes for days, but the White House today effectively humiliated FBI Director Louis Freeh in public.
Press Secretary Mike McCurry sent the strongest signal to date that President Bill Clinton has lost confidence in Freeh, who disagreed with Attorney General Janet Reno's decision against calling for an independent counsel to investigate the president's and vice president's fund-raising activities. (736K edited wav sound)
Asked repeatedly whether the president still retains confidence in Freeh, McCurry -- choosing his words carefully -- replied, "I think the president thinks that the FBI is the world's greatest law enforcement agency, and I think the president has great confidence that Louis Freeh is leading that agency as best he can."
When reporters noted that was less than a ringing endorsement, McCurry replied, "You take it whatever way you want to take it."
At another point, a reporter said to McCurry that his words amounted to less than a full endorsement, a smiling McCurry said, "I am pretty careful on how I choose my words."
At that point, there was laughter in the White House press briefing room, as reporters understood the not-so-subtle message.
In recent days, as reported by CNN, White House officials have privately been trashing Freeh, not only complaining about his position on an independent counsel but also on the FBI's failure to deal with its troubled crime lab, its botched investigation into the Atlanta Olympic bombing in 1996, and Freeh's alleged efforts to ingratiate himself among congressional Republicans.
They have made the point that Freeh is probably not suited for the job. They've also complained privately about news media leaks from the FBI that have embarrassed the Clinton Administration, especially those involving allegations that China may have tried to influence the U.S. political system.
What's different now is that the White House is publicly signaling its irritation with Freeh, hoping he'll get the message and resign.
On Monday, CNN reported that Freeh's relationship with the White House has gone from bad to worse and that the president was losing confidence in him. On Tuesday, the president twice ignored a reporter's question about whether he had confidence in Freeh.
In Other News:
Thursday Dec. 4, 1997
White House Takes Jab At Freeh
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