AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
The FBI is so universally familiar to Americans that it’s unnecessary to spell out its name. Its initials are synonymous with a kind of stolid professionalism. Like our northern neighbor where the Royal Canadian Mounted Police famously “always gets their man,” the FBI isn’t glamorous, but is who you want on your side if there’s a criminal to apprehend.
It isn’t without fault. In the post-9/11 era, its anti-terror focus has sometimes been overzealous, generating complaints from minority communities and civil libertarians. But long gone are the days of J. Edgar Hoover, its legendary founding director, who infamously played fast and loose in pursuing personal vendettas and agendas. At least since it became known that FBI Associate Director Mark Felt served as the Washington Post’s secret source in pending the corrupt Nixon administration, a large majority of Americans sees the FBI as an honest and neutral bulwark against wrongdoers of all kinds, in or out of government.
This makes it all the more astounding to hear a U.S. president denigrate the FBI. Claiming the agency’s stature is in “tatters,” President Trump is lashing out at an American institution with a far better reputation than he enjoys himself.
Trump’s reaction to the FBI’s legally sanctioned investigation of Russian involvement in the last election may be understandable from someone who regards himself as a tough street fighter. But running down the FBI at the time when it has hundreds of investigations going, some of them dangerous, is not smart for the nation’s chief executive officer, who oversees the FBI and ought to have its agents’ welfare and safety in mind.
The Republican Party of days gone by was a proud defender of law and order. It is sad to see the GOP’s leader and his enablers turn against our most potent police agency, which has been effective at combating organized crime and blocking attacks by foreign terrorists.
It is a standard ploy to attack government during political campaigns, but quite another to sabotage it after being elected. Meanwhile, the rest of us need government to function. And we sure as hell need the FBI to continue doing its job well.
Thankfully, there is no evidence for what Trump is suggesting. Robert Mueller, the retired FBI director now directing the independent investigation of election interference, promptly relieved one agent of his duty because of a pro-Clinton email. This is a sign that the agency has a self-correcting mechanism. It still treasures objectivity, fairness and truthfulness. Trump, of course, has no use for any of these values.
Trump is simply trying to derail an investigation that is now penetrating his operation. We must make certain the FBI stays on the job.