Former AG Barr Reportedly Threatened to Quit If Trump Fired FBI Director Wray Then-U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr holds a news conference at the Department of Justice Dec. 21, 2020, in Washington, D.C. (Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)
By Charlie McCarthy | Monday, 10 May 2021 08:05 AM
Former Attorney General Bill Barr threatened to quit if then-President Donald Trump fired FBI Director Chris Way, it was reported Sunday.
According to the Business Insider, a previously unreported incident was seen as the closest Wray came to being fired during the Trump administration.
Soon after Barr arrived at the White House one day last spring, top Trump aide Johnny McEntee whisked the attorney general into the Roosevelt Room to introduce him to Bill Evanina, a top counterintelligence official in the administration and former FBI employee.
Barr quickly realized Evanina was being presented as a replacement for Wray, whom the president had publicly criticized and considered firing.
The White House plan also included replacing then-Deputy FBI Director David Bowdich with controversial Trump national security advisor Kash Patel.
Barr threatened to resign in protest, according to a person briefed on the matter.
Wray, nominated by Trump to replace James Comey in 2017, seemed to be on shaky ground with the former president almost from the outset of taking over the FBI.
He refused to fire Andrew McCabe, who had been acting FBI director following Comey, and even threatened to quit over the issue. Trump later publicly expressed disappointment over Wray’s statements about antifa, voter fraud, and Russia's election interference efforts.
Trump became angered after Wray refused to open a federal investigation into Hunter Biden's former business dealings or to remove bureau officials connected to the Russia investigation, the Washington Examiner reported.
The then-president said "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.
Barr, however, strengthened his relationship with Wray. The two men had weekly lunches and worked together in responding to the widespread social unrest that followed George Floyd's killing in police custody last year.
Now, the 54-year-old Wray remains in his job under President Joe Biden and an administration seemingly less volatile than Trump and his White House.
"He'll have more time to devote to the types of things that the FBI director historically has focused on, as opposed to Twitter storms and the latest tantrum or eruption from the White House," said Charlie Steele, who served as former FBI Director Robert Mueller's chief of staff from 2004 to 2006.
Wray is less than halfway into a 10-year term as director.
"He comes to the job with a good deal of relevant experience. The norm is that an FBI director serves his full 10-year term. That was [breached] in the Trump administration," said Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration. "The attorney general testified that he wanted to reaffirm the norms that have served the department so well, and I'm sure this is one of them."
Wray now works with Attorney General Merrick Garland, whose style is more soft-spoken than Barr, who was nicknamed "the Buffalo" for his brash style.
"Barr is a force of nature and pure id," a former Justice Department official said. "Garland may be finding himself having a similar experience to Wray's: They're thoughtful, reserved institutionalists who are doing their best to guide institutions they cherish through a highly politically-charged time in our nation's history, having to navigate the currents in both directions."
Wray currently is working with a Justice Department investigating Trump allies such as Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Rudy Giuliani.