In newly released excerpts from President Donald Trump’s interview with the New York Times, Trump suggested that he believes the FBI director should report directly to him and not the attorney general.
In a portion of the interview that picks up with Trump talking about former President Richard Nixon, Trump claims that the FBI director was always supposed to report to the president of the United States, and only began reporting to the Justice Department out of “courtesy.”
And nothing was changed other than Richard Nixon came along. And when Nixon came along [inaudible] was pretty brutal, and out of courtesy, the F.B.I. started reporting to the Department of Justice. But there was nothing official, there was nothing from Congress. There was nothing — anything. But the F.B.I. person really reports directly to the president of the United States, which is interesting. You know, which is interesting. And I think we’re going to have a great new F.B.I. director.
Trump’s history is incorrect. Quoting from the FBI’s own website on how the bureau came to be (emphasis added):
On July 26, 1908, [Attorney General Charles} Bonaparte ordered Department of Justice attorneys to refer most investigative matters to his Chief Examiner, Stanley W. Finch ... The new force had its mission—to conduct investigations for the Department of Justice—so that date is celebrated as the official birth of the FBI.
Trump previously came under fire for inappropriate one-on-one meetings with now former FBI Director James Comey during the course of the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign. At one of those meetings, Trump asked Comey for his “loyalty.”
Comey later said in congressional testimony that he asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to leave him alone in a room with Trump.
Now, Trump’s latest comments seem to imply that he believes his new pick for FBI, Christopher Wray, should report directly to him instead of the attorney general. If that is the case, it could have considerable implications for the agency’s independence and for the fate of the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia.