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Former FBI director calls attacks on bureau from Trump, Barr "dangerous and unwarranted"

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Posted at 12:59 PM, Dec 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-16 15:00:04-05

Attacks on the FBI by President Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr have prompted a rebuke from former FBI and CIA Director William Webster, who called the aspersions "dangerous and unwarranted."

In an op-ed in the New York Times published Monday, Webster, the only person to lead both the FBI and CIA, wrote that the "integrity of the institutions" tasked with protecting civil order are "under assault from too many people whose job it should be to protect them."

"Calling FBI professionals 'scum,' as the president did, is a slur against people who risk their lives to keep us safe," Webster wrote. "Mr. Barr's 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."

Webster, who was tapped to lead the FBI by President Jimmy Carter and then appointed to serve as director of the CIA by President Ronald Reagan, said Barr is a "longtime friend" but called the criticisms by him and Mr. Trump "troubling in the extreme."

"The country can ill afford to have a chief law enforcement officer dispute the Justice Department's own independent inspector general's report and claim that an FBI investigation was based on a 'completely bogus narrative,'" Webster wrote.

Webster's warning stemmed from attacks Barr and Mr. Trump hurled at the FBI following the release of a long-awaited report from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz that examined the origins of the bureau's investigation into ties between Trump campaign officials and Russians.

Horowitz determined the FBI was justified in launching the probe but found 17 major errors in the bureau's handling of its application and renewal requests to surveil former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

Mr. Trump condemned FBI Director Christopher Wray after the report was unveiled and claimed on Twitter Wray would "never be able to fix the FBI" because of his reading of the findings.

Barr also blasted the FBI for engaging in "inexplicable behavior" and said the bureau's investigation was based on a "completely bogus narrative."

Webster wrote he is "deeply disturbed" by Mr. Trump's criticisms of Wray and said the president's suggestion that he could be fired — by referring to Wray as the "current director" in his tweet — "disturbs me greatly."

"I have complete confidence in Mr. Wray, and I know that the FBI is not a broken institution," he said. "It is a professional agency worthy of respect and support. The derision and aspersions are dangerous and unwarranted."