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Trump and Barr Threaten FBI, as Well as the Rule of Law

William Webster, former CIA and FBI director, defends agencies' independence
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 16, 2019 5:14 PM CST
William Webster has called out President Trump and William Barr as threats to the political independence of the FBI and CIA.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

(Newser) – Having served as director of the FBI and CIA, the only person to hold both jobs, William Webster says he has a unique perspective. And from his perspective, the rule of law in this country "faces a dire threat." Webster made his case in an op-ed piece Monday in the New York Times. "The integrity of the institutions that protect our civil order is, tragically, under assault from too many people whose job it should be to protect them," Webster writes. He names President Trump and Attorney General William Barr as being among those people. Webster cites Trump's hints that he might fire Christopher Wray the way he fired the last FBI director, James Comey, and the president's references to the agency as "broken." The FBI director serves a 10-year term, Webster points out, to ensure political independence. "I have complete confidence in Mr. Wray, and I know that the FBI is not a broken institution," he says.

As for Barr, whom Webster calls a longtime friend, the oped says his "charges of bias within the FBI, made without providing any evidence and in direct dispute of the findings of the nonpartisan inspector general, risk inflicting enduring damage on this critically important institution." The Republican, 95, writes that he didn't have to deal with this sort of thing when he was director. Presidents Carter and Reagan, and the four attorneys general who were his bosses, never once exerted political pressure on him, he writes. Now Webster sees that independence under siege. It's not a political issue, he says. "This is about the rule of law. Republicans and Democrats alike should defend it above all else." (Read more William Webster stories.)

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