President Joe Biden intends to keep FBI Director Christopher Wray in his post, a senior administration official tells CNN, a sign of confidence for the bureau’s leader who has more than six years remaining in his term.
This is not unexpected.
During the transition, Biden signaled his plan to keep Wray on board – if he wasn’t fired first by President Donald Trump. Like all FBI directors, Wray has a 10-year term. Wray was appointed by Trump in 2017 and faced criticism from the ex-president on a number of issues.
Wray had no reason to think he wasn’t on solid footing with the new Biden administration – despite the fact that White House press secretary Jen Psaki did not answer on Wednesday when asked if Biden had confidence in Wray.
“I have not spoken within him about specifically FBI Director Wray in recent days,” press secretary Jen Psaki said, “but I’ll circle back if there’s more to convey.”
Psaki followed up on Thursday, tweeting: “I caused an unintentional ripple yesterday so wanted to state very clearly President Biden intends to keep FBI Director Wray on in his role and he has confidence in the job he is doing.”
An official said she simply had not spoken to Biden about the FBI leader, so she answered honestly at her first briefing.
Wray’s team of federal investigators is currently chasing thousands of leads in twin efforts to prosecute people involved in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol and to try to prevent feared follow-up attacks in Washington and around the country.
Wray announced last week that investigators have identified more than 200 suspects in their probe of the attack at the US Capitol and arrested more than 100 individuals, a challenge that FBI and Justice Department officials say is “unprecedented.”
While federal law enforcement officials have sought to reassure the American public in recent days that they are up to the task on both fronts, their public remarks also lay bare the enormity of the challenge they face in tracking potential threats to not only the nation’s capital, but across the country.
Law enforcement officials have indicated to CNN that authorities missed key signs ahead of the siege, which left five dead and the Capitol ransacked, and the FBI’s preparations leading up to the day of the attack on the Capitol have come under scrutiny.
The Washington Post reported last week that the FBI warned of a violent “war” at the US Capitol in an internal report issued a day before the deadly siege, but it wasn’t acted on urgently enough to prevent the domestic terrorist attack.
The Post said that the Tuesday prior to the attack, an FBI office in Norfolk, Virginia, issued an “explicit internal warning that extremists were preparing to travel to Washington to commit violence and ‘war.’ ”
The report “painted a dire portrait of dangerous plans, including individuals sharing a map of the complex’s tunnels, and possible rally points for would-be conspirators to meet up” in several states before heading to Washington.
Prior to the attacks, Trump made little attempt to veil his disdain for Wray, who many of Trump’s allies have suggested to him is doing little to stamp out what they view as rampant corruption at the FBI. He complained privately that Wray refuses to rebuke his predecessor James Comey, has chastised those who recommended him for the job and has said he would love to replace him.
Officials at the Justice Department and the FBI told CNN last year that Wray knew Trump was often unhappy with him and that the possibility remained ever-present he could be fired by tweet. But Trump’s repeated attacks on Wray appeared designed to motivate a subset of his political base eager to hear him rail against a swampy deep state – despite holding responsibility himself for executive branch appointments and at the time enjoying Republican control of the Senate, which confirms administration nominees.
CNN’s Kate Sullivan contributed to this report.