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Trump may fire FBI boss over poll slump

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On stage: President Donald Trump dances after speaking at a campaign rally in Gastonia, North Carolina, on Wednesday. PHOTO: AP/ NELL REDMOND

On stage: President Donald Trump dances after speaking at a campaign rally in Gastonia, North Carolina, on Wednesday. PHOTO: AP/ NELL REDMOND

On stage: President Donald Trump dances after speaking at a campaign rally in Gastonia, North Carolina, on Wednesday. PHOTO: AP/ NELL REDMOND

President Donald Trump and his advisers have repeatedly discussed whether to fire FBI Director Christopher Wray after Election Day - a scenario that also could put at risk the tenure of Attorney General William Barr.

The president is reportedly growing increasingly frustrated that federal law enforcement has not delivered his campaign the kind of last-minute boost that the FBI provided in 2016.

The conversations among the president and senior aides stem, in part, from their disappointment that Mr Wray in particular, but Mr Barr as well, have not done what Mr Trump had hoped - indicate that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden, or other Biden associates are under investigation, sources close to the White House say.

In the campaign's closing weeks, the president has intensified public calls for jailing his challenger, much as he did for Hillary Clinton, his opponent in 2016. Mr Trump has called Mr Biden a "criminal" without articulating what laws he believes the former vice president has broken.

People familiar with the discussions say Mr Trump wants official action similar to the announcement made 11 days before the last presidential election by then-FBI Director James Comey, who informed Congress he had reopened an investigation into Ms Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state after potential new evidence had been discovered.

Mr Trump emphasised the point in an interview with Fox News this week, saying "we've got to get the attorney general to act" and that Mr Barr should do so "fast". The president was alluding to information about Hunter Biden recently touted by Mr Trump's private lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and based on the contents of a laptop computer purportedly belonging to the former vice president's son. "This is major corruption," Mr Trump said, "and this has to be known about before the election".

The White House does not speculate on personnel matters, said Judd Deere, a spokesman. "If the president doesn't have confidence in someone he will let you know," Mr Deere said. An FBI spokesman declined to comment.

Polling data shows Mr Comey's announcement in late October four years ago cut significantly into Ms Clinton's lead over Mr Trump. Yet while Mr Trump may be hoping for a similar surprise from within his administration now, senior FBI officials are wary of repeating moves that were sharply criticised as unfair and inappropriate.

In a letter early this week to Senator Ron Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security committee, an FBI official sought to dodge questions posed by Mr Johnson about the bureau's knowledge of Hunter Biden's purported laptop.

The FBI has "nothing to add" to a statement made by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, who earlier this week dismissed suspicions that the Biden laptop was the product of a Russian disinformation campaign, the letter said. Mr Ratcliffe told Fox Business Channel that the US government has no intelligence to support such claims.

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By not disputing accusations levelled by Democrats and some former intelligence officials that the laptop's late reveal could be another form of foreign election interference, the FBI gave tacit support to the idea that the emails in question are genuine.

But the bureau's letter to Mr Johnson was not that explicit, noting the criticism levelled by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz over Mr Comey's actions in 2016.

The FBI "can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any ongoing investigation or persons or entities under investigation, including to Members of Congress," the letter from Assistant Director Jill Tyson said.

The letter marked the latest salvo in an increasingly fraught relationship between the president, the FBI and senior Justice Department officials. Mr Trump considers Mr Wray one of his worst personnel picks, according to people familiar with the matter.

© Washington Post


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