And that he wouldn’t swear a “loyalty oath,” which Trump has never asked of anyone
Media pretty excited that Trump’s FBI nominee won’t call Russia probe a witch hunt
July 13, 2017 By Dan Calabrese
Los Angeles Times columnist Michael McGough is right about one thing: These are not normal times. In normal times the news media wouldn’t be misrepresenting – whether intentionally or out of lazy acceptance of popular narratives – just about everything the president of the United States says or does. It would be normal for them to do this to a degree under other Republican presidents, but never to the extent they’ve done it since Donald Trump took office.
But that’s not what McGough means, of course. He thinks it’s extraordinary that the man Trump nominated to head the FBI declined to call an ongoing investigation a “witch hunt” and said he would not take a “loyalty oath.” What’s more, McGough seems to think this all represents quite a burn on Trump:
Now listen to Wray testifying Wednesday before the Judiciary Committee: “No one asked me for any kind of loyalty oath at any point during this process, and I sure as heck didn’t offer one.”
Wray also promised that he wouldn’t brook any interference with the investigation of Russian meddling in the election — and possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign — being led by special counsel (and former FBI chief) Robert Mueller. “I would consider an effort to tamper with Director Mueller’s investigation to be unacceptable and inappropriate and would need to be dealt with very sternly and appropriately indeed,” Wray told the Judiciary Committee.
This couldn’t have been music to President Trump’s ears, but especially after the revelations about his son’s meeting in Trump Tower it’s hard to believe that even this abnormal president would treat Wray the way he did Comey.
If he did, he’d be moving against his own appointee, not an Obama holdover whose firing could be rationalized on grounds other than displeasure over a “witch hunt” about Russia. The administration initially suggested that Trump fired Comey because of a recommendation by Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein, who found fault with the way Comey handled the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of State. (With a characteristic lack of discipline, Trump muddled that explanation when he told NBC’s Lester Holt that he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he decided to dismiss Comey.)
McGough is very excited about all this. His headline is even a taunt, reading: “Attention President Trump: Your new FBI nominee doesn’t think the Russia probe is a witch hunt.”
Let’s deal with these issues one at a time, starting with the Russia thing: Of course no incoming FBI director is going to prejudge an ongoing investigation by calling it a witch hunt. It’s understandable that President Trump himself believes it is because it’s being used to try to cripple his presidency. But Christopher Wray needs to treat it just like any other investigation, by assessing it according to the facts, and he can’t do that until he’s on the job and takes a look. McGough surely wants to believe otherwise, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Trump approved of that answer. Wray can’t do his job if he says anything else.
Now about the “loyalty oath,” first of all, it’s a complete myth that Trump asked James Comey or anyone else to swear to a “loyalty oath.” What he said is that he expects loyalty, and there is nothing whatsoever wrong with the concept of loyalty as long as we’re talking about loyalty to the right things. A president has every right, for example, to expect that the people who work for him are interested in helping him to govern successfully rather than using their proximity to him to gather damaging leaks they can give to the news media.
When Trump asks for loyalty of that kind, he is absolutely right to do so and everyone who works for him should give it.
Now, if he is asking for loyalty to the cause of his own political interests, that’s an entirely different story. There’s nothing we know that suggests this is what he meant when he told Comey he needed loyalty. And even Comey didn’t claim that Trump asked him to swear to some sort of hokey “oath.” That emerged strictly from the imagination of Michael McGough and probably a bunch of other Trump-hating journalists as well.
So no, there’s nothing Wray said here that is all that noteworthy, nor is it like to be seen as bad news by President Trump. He just wants a man heading the FBI who has his confidence, and Christopher Wray knows what it will take to get confirmed so he can start doing what he’s been asked to do.