Unpacking The Reaction To Plans To Release The Nunes Memo

Feb 2, 2018
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're joined now by NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson, who was listening in to that conversation.

Carrie, what did you hear in there?

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Well, I thought it was so interesting that Congressman Hurd, a former CIA employee himself, talked about these folks just wanting to do their jobs. The people I talked to in the FBI and the Justice Department do in fact just want to do their jobs. And they believe that their jobs are being made more difficult by these tweets from the president and these incessant attacks from the White House and the president's allies on their integrity, on their character.

Just yesterday, the FBI Agents Association issued a strong statement in support of its new director, Chris Wray, pointing out that these agents take an oath to protect the Constitution, not the man or woman who's in the White House. And the president's tweet this morning also seemed to suggest that he believes that the partisanship goes only in one direction at these agencies. In fact, he's accusing them of favoring Democrats. But if you talk to Hillary Clinton and her campaign, I don't think she'd believe that or argue that at all.

MARTIN: Right. The tweet was almost what we have seen the president do before - is to pre-empt an attack that's coming his direction, to put it on someone else first, you know, because this whole thing is about the concerns that Democrats have - and many in the national security apparatus have - is that this has become partisan, that the entire thing is an attempt to undermine the Mueller investigation. And the president, in his tweet, is saying no, it's not me. I'm not being the partisan here. It's the leaders of the FBI and DOJ, who were appointed by him, not Rod Rosenstein, but Chris Wray was his own hand-tapped man to lead the FBI.

JOHNSON: Well, remember, Rachel, that there is an active and ongoing criminal investigation and an active and ongoing national security investigation with respect to Russian interference in the 2016 election. We know the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has expressed a desire to interview the president of the United States, and negotiations about that are underway. But there are all these attacks coming from different quarters and allies of the president trying to - by his own account - undermine or discredit the FBI, the Justice Department and the special counsel, which is in fact investigating people close to him at this very moment. So consider those motivations in mind when you see those attacks is what I'm hearing from inside the DOJ and the FBI.

MARTIN: How does Chris Wray keep his job? I mean, if he has now come out so publicly against President Trump on this particular issue and he's been overruled, how does the president keep him there? How does he stay and feel like he's being effective?

JOHNSON: Well, Chris Wray is no wallflower, but he doesn't prompt confrontations when they're unnecessary. In fact, he did not put his name on that FBI statement earlier this week. He tends to do his business behind closed doors and to tell people in person what he thinks. I am not clear where he stands right now on whether he wants to remain in this job. For the White House to lose a second FBI director in a year would be devastating politically.

MARTIN: Carrie Johnson - she covers the Justice Department for us. We were talking about the imminent release of the Nunes memo. The White House has approved the release. It is going over to Congress today, and we expect that memo to be released to the public by the day's end.

Carrie, thanks for your time this morning.

JOHNSON: My pleasure.

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