Former Attorney General Bill Barr threatened to quit if then-President Donald Trump fired Christopher Wray, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to a new report.
Barr learned of plans to dismiss Wray when Johnny McEntee, a top Trump aide, introduced him to Bill Evanina, a top counterintelligence official in the administration who was reportedly being considered as a potential replacement for Wray, according to Business Insider. When told of plans to replace Wray, as well as swapping then-Deputy FBI Director David Bowdich with Trump national security advisor Kash Patel, Barr threatened to quit, a person briefed on the matter told the outlet.
Barr, described by a former Justice Department official as “a force of nature and pure id,” cultivated a close relationship with Wray, to the point that the pair had weekly lunches as the departments they helmed continued to work closely together, the outlet reported.
Trump’s administration was marked by high turnover rates, with several Cabinet-level officials departing the administration during his four years in office. That trend accelerated after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, with a handful of officials, including then-first lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff and special envoy to Northern Ireland Mick Mulvaney, resigning in protest of Trump’s actions preceding the siege.
The former president had an oft-contentious relationship with Wray, who assumed the role of FBI director on Aug. 2, 2017. Wray publicly warned about Russian and Iranian election meddling, the threat posed by white supremacist violence, and the danger of a rising communist China that seeks to become the world’s sole superpower “by any means necessary.”
Wray’s refusal to open a federal investigation into Hunter Biden’s former business dealings or to remove bureau officials connected to the Russia investigation reportedly earned Trump’s ire, and Trump periodically criticized Wray, including last May, when he asserted that Wray was actually “appointed by” former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Trump said that “the jury is still out” on Wray, and “let’s see what happens with him,” while noting that he would leave Barr to decide Wray’s fate.
Some law enforcement officials rushed to Wray’s defense in light of reports of his potential ouster.
“Major law enforcement associations representing current and former FBI agents as well as police and sheriff’s departments across the country have consistently expressed their full support of Director Wray’s leadership of the Bureau,” a senior FBI official told Axios.
Although initially noncommittal about President Joe Biden’s level of confidence in Wray, White House press secretary Jen Psaki quickly reversed course, saying just one day later that Wray would continue to serve in the Biden administration.
“I caused an unintentional ripple yesterday, so wanted to state very clearly President Biden intends to keep FBI Director Wray in his role, and he has confidence in the job he is doing,” Psaki tweeted on Jan. 21, one day after Biden assumed office.
Hunter Biden has since revealed that he is under federal investigation, announcing last December that federal authorities were examining his taxes.
Representatives for DOJ did not immediately respond to the Washington Examiner‘s request for comment.