President Trump gave a distinctly mixed message to the FBI on Friday, saying “people are very, very angry” about what they see as a political bias in the bureau but vowing unqualified support for law enforcement.
“Well, it’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI,” Trump told reporters at the White House before he flew to Quantico, Va., to address graduates at the FBI Academy. “But we’re going to rebuild the FBI. It will be bigger and better than ever.”
The speech marked an opportunity for Trump to reaffirm public faith in the federal justice system as the White House faces a special counsel investigation into possible cooperation between his campaign and a covert Russian effort to undermine Hillary Clinton.
Trump instead used the address to mock reporters in the room as “fake news,” slam the visa lottery system, and praise himself as “a true friend and loyal champion in the White House — more loyal than anyone else can be.”
Saying that assaults on police are on the rise, he said, “every drop of blood spilled from our men and women in blue is a wound inflicted on our nation.”
“They have been subject to malicious attacks on their character and integrity,” he said, “This anti-police sentiment is wrong and it’s dangerous, and we will not stand for it.”
Earlier, Trump had been just as scathing when asked about the release by the Justice Department this week of about 375 private text messages between Peter Strzok, a senior FBI counter-intelligence agent, and Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer from a 15-month period in 2015 and 2016. Some of the texts were harshly critical of Trump and other candidates.
Trump called the texts “really, really disgraceful.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller III, who is leading the Russia investigation, removed Strzok from the probe after an inspector general inquiry found the texts in July. Page had assisted the investigation in its early stages but already had left.
A White House spokesman reinforced criticism of the FBI earlier Friday, telling Fox News that the texts are signs the FBI has an “extreme bias” against Trump.
“It is troubling, deeply troubling, that the revelations have now come to light that there is extreme bias against this president with high-up members of the team there at the FBI who were investigating Hillary Clinton at the time,” said spokesman J. Hogan Gidley.
In his remarks to reporters, Trump repeated his claims that Clinton got off easy in the FBI investigation into her use of a private email server while she was secretary of State. He called the decision not to prosecute the Democratic presidential nominee as evidence of a “rigged system.”
“When you look at what they did with respect to the Hillary Clinton investigation, it was rigged. And there’s never been anything like it in this country that we’ve ever found before. It’s very, very sad,” he said.
Trump refused to rule out a presidential pardon for Michael Flynn, his former national security advisor. Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with Russian officials, and agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigators.
“I don’t want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet,” Trump said. “We’ll see what happens. Let’s see. I can say this: When you look at what’s gone on with the FBI and with the Justice Department, people are very, very angry.”