By Allan Lengel
ORLANDO — FBI Director Christopher Wray delivered a serviceable, but unimpressive speech to thousands of members of the federal, state and local law enforcement community on Sunday at the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
He talked about terrorism, the need for the FBI to work closer with local law enforcement, active shooters, officer deaths and the difficulties, but great rewards of working in the field.
Then, after 35 minutes, he was done and walked off stage to an obligatory round of applause. No questions. No schmoozing. No truly inspiring words. It wasn’t a very meaty speech.
Wray is a nice guy. Low key. Serious about the job. But he’s no rock star like his predecessor James Comey, or for that matter, Robert Mueller, a stoic man who looked and acted like an FBI director plucked out of central casting.
But in these challenging times for the bureau, he may be just what the agency needs. He’s flying under the radar in Washington and he’s not a regular fixture on the nightly news. Being a federal law enforcement official, and flying too high inside the Beltway can lead to a public beheading from the president.
President Donald Trump has been on a jihad to discredit the bureau and the Justice Department as Mueller moves forward like a heat missile in the Russia probe, flipping one Trump insider after another.
Not since the Nixonian years, has a president displayed such naked hostility toward the bureau.
The bureau has caught hell from Trump for not indicting Hillary Clinton and for investigating Russia ties to his campaign. To top that off, the FBI was put in an untenable situation when it was asked to do a background check on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, but was then handcuffed and prevented from doing a first-rate job. Critics called the investigation a sham. And to some degree, considering agents weren’t allowed to do a full-court press, it was.
Federal agents are divided. Some think Trump is doing a good job. Some think he’s doing a good job, but think he’s a jerk. And some are simply appalled by his behavior and actions, including his free-flowing tweets. Comey never liked Trump, even before the firing.
Wray’s low key approach may not be publicly inspiring, but it may be just what Washington needs at a time like this.
And with all that’s going on, from the Russia probe, to the Trump attacks to the Brett Kavanaugh mess, it may explain why he kept his head low on Sunday and walked away without allowing questions.