President Donald Trump is considering a number of key staff changes after the election, including the dismissal of FBI Director Christopher Wray, two administration officials said Thursday.
Removing Wray would rock the law enforcement agency yet again, three years after the firing of FBI Director James Comey.
Trump also has expressed displeasure with Defense Secretary Mark Esper and more recent frustration with Attorney General William Barr who has so far not responded to the president’s repeated public appeals for the attorney general to take action against his political rivals related to unsubstantiated claims of misdeeds related to the 2016 election.
But Wray, who Trump selected to replace Comey following his 2017 dismissal related to the then-director’s management of the Russia investigation, is the subject of much criticism from the president.
The discussions about Wray’s possible removal were first reported by the Washington Post.
Two officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Trump regards Wray as having gone out of his way to separate himself from the president on multiple occasions.
The FBI declined to comment
Late last year, Trump rebuked Wray following the release of a Justice Department inspector general’s report highly critical of the FBI work in the the Russia investigation that shadowed much of Trump’s presidency.
Trump appeared to threaten the FBI director, when in an interview with ABC News Wray affirmed a key finding in the report, indicating that the Russia inquiry was opened with the “appropriate predication and authorization.“
Asked if he thought Trump’s campaign was unfairly targeted in the Russia investigation, Wray said: “I do not.”
“I don’t know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but it sure wasn’t the one given to me,” Trump tweeted then, adding that Wray “with that kind of attitude will never be able to fix the FBI...”
More recently, Wray has drawn Trump’s ire for his testimony during congressional hearings in September when he highlighted the conclusions of intelligence officials who warned that Russia was actively attempting to denigrate the candidacy of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
At a separate hearing, Wray told lawmakers that he was not aware of evidence indicating widespread voter fraud, contradicting Trump’s repeated claims in the run-up to next month’s election. The FBI director also has crossed Trump in assessing antifa, a far left anti-facist movement, as an ideology and not a terror group.
'Keep calm and tackle hard'
There also are personal differences between the two, said a person who has seen Trump and Wray in meetings together, referring to their distinct styles and personality, the person said.
In a field of high-profile candidates for the director's job, which included former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, the career prosecutor proved an unlikely final choice, though Trump lavished him with praise when he announced the pick on Twitter.
At that time, Trump described Wray as "an impeccably qualified individual, and I know that he will again serve his country as a fierce guardian of the law and model of integrity once the Senate confirms him to lead the FBI."
Immediately after his confirmation, Wray plunged into a job that he saw as a mission to restore the FBI's brand.
"People talk about criticism, and that inevitably raises questions about things like brand," Wray said in a 2018 interview with USA TODAY. "What I try to tell our folks is that while there are a lot of opinions out there about us, the opinions that really matter are the opinions of a jury when one of our agents takes the stand or a judge when he's being presented with a warrant or community leaders who are having to work side-by-side with our people."
When Trump would later turn on his own director, Wray never returned fire. Instead, he quietly urged the bureau's agents, analysts and lawyers to tend to their work with a colorful refrain: "Keep calm and tackle hard."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: President Trump weighing firing of FBI Director Wray after election