FBI agents strongly dispute the White House assertion that FBI agents didn't trust or like James Comey

James Comey.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Among the many reasons the Trump administration is giving for President Trump's decision to abruptly fire FBI Director James Comey is that FBI agents no longer trusted their boss. Comey had "lost the confidence" of the FBI "rank-and-file" and had "politicized" his role, Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told CBS News Tuesday night. She repeated the assertion during Wednesday's press briefing. As CNN's Jim Sciutto reported Wednesday afternoon, that just doesn't seem to be true.

"Veteran agents and other FBI employees described a dark mood throughout the bureau, where morale was already low from months of being pummeled over dueling investigations surrounding the 2016 presidential election," reports The New York Times. "Some agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in interviews that they were shocked and demoralized," The Wall Street Journal adds.

The Washington Post described "raw anger, and some fear," at the FBI. It was "a gut punch," said Thomas O'Connor, the president of the FBI Agents Association. "We didn't see it coming, and we don't think Director Comey did anything that would lead to this." The Post elaborated:

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Many employees said they were furious about the firing, saying the circumstances of his dismissal did more damage to the FBI's independence than anything Comey did in his three-plus years in the job. One intelligence official who works on Russian espionage matters said they were more determined than ever to pursue such cases. Another said Comey's firing and the subsequent comments from the White House are attacks that won't soon be forgotten. Trump had "essentially declared war on a lot of people at the FBI," one official said. "I think there will be a concerted effort to respond over time in kind." [The Washington Post]

FBI employees told The Wall Street Journal that Comey was "protective of the agency," independent, and liked by most agents. "We will keep working, obviously, but this could do some real damage," said one top agent. "It is good to know the director has your back and is not going to fold under pressure." The New York City field office, the FBI's largest, was described as "somber" and "like a funeral parlor" on Wednesday.

Trump "is weighing going to the FBI headquarters in Washington on Friday as a show of his commitment to the bureau," an official told The New York Times, "though he is not expected to discuss the Russia investigation."

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.