More than 100 FBI leadership communications contradict claims by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and tweets by President Trump about agency employees’ response to the firing of former Director James Comey on May 9, 2017, the Lawfare blog reported today.
Lawfare received from the FBI 103 pages of messages from agency leadership regarding the firing. The messages were released pursuant to four Freedom of Information Requests and a lawsuit filed by Lawfare Editor in Chief Benjamin Wittes, who also is senior fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution.
The blog notes that after Comey’s firing, then-deputy press secretary Sanders said “the rank-and-file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director” and that Trump “had countless conversations with members from within the FBI” before firing Comey. Sanders also said she had “heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president’s decision.”
None of the communications received in response to the FOIA requests and lawsuit evince criticism of Comey’s leadership, Lawfare wrote. “Not one special agent in charge describes Comey’s removal as some kind of opportunity for new leadership. And if any FBI official really got on the phone with Sanders to express gratitude or thanks ‘for the president’s decision,’ nobody reported that to his or her staff,” according to the blog. A copy of the entire FBI FOIA response is posted on the blog.
According to Lawfare, in the wake of Comey’s firing Kathryn Turman, assistant director for the Office for Victim Assistance, wrote to her staff, “Our hearts may be heavy but we must continue to do what we do best, which is to protect and serve the American people.” John Bennett, special agent in charge in San Francisco, stated: “These events are hard to hear and harder to comprehend.” St. Louis Special Agent in Charge William Woods said: “I’m sure we are all feeling a wide range of emotions regarding the firing of Director Comey by President Trump.” Phoenix Special Agent in Charge Michael DeLeon said that “everyone is surprised and we are certainly disappointed with the events surrounding this matter.” Earlier he had written: “We all felt the pain associated with the loss of a leader who was fully engaged and took great pride in the FBI organization and our employees. Simply stated, Director Comey will be missed.”
Read more on Lawfare.