DENVER — FBI Director Christopher Wray was in Denver – visiting his troops and meeting with area law enforcement officials – when he was grabbed in a hallway and given a quick news alert: Russian President Vladimir Putin was scheduled to visit the White House later this year.
Wray had spent a chunk of the day with Calvin Shivers, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s field office, and was heading to a meeting that included reporters, when he got the news.
And the first question he got when reporters were invited to ask questions, the upcoming meeting was first up.
“You know, I just heard about that meeting as I was walking down the hallway here,” Wray said
Thursday afternoon during a public session that included more than 50 state and federal law enforcement officials. “I’ve been fairly busy in meeting with Calvin and his office and his partners all day, you know, so I’m hearing about it for the first time.”
Wray deflected a follow-up question about whether he had concerns about the announcement given the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia took extensive steps to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.
“You know I’m going wait until I get more of the facts,” Wray said. “A fifteen second heads-up as I’m walking down the hallway – we don’t know each other, but one of the things I try not to be is somebody who just pops off when I don’t have all the facts.”
Around the same time, Dan Coats, the country’s Director of National Intelligence, was on the stage at the Aspen Security Forum when NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interrupted with, “We have some breaking news. The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.
“Say that again,” Coats said to laughter in the room, seemingly caught off guard. “That’s going to be special.”
The question was one of a handful Wray took from reporters, who were invited to be on hand during his meeting with sheriffs, police chiefs, federal prosecutors and others in the law enforcement community.
Wray was also asked about Chase Bishop, an FBI agent facing a felony assault charge after an incident in which he was accused of dropping his gun while dancing at a Denver club – then accidentally firing it when he reached to pick it up, hitting another patron in the leg.
“That involves an ongoing personnel matter and I’m somebody who believes very strongly in the importance of following our disciplinary process,” Wray said. “And one of the most important features of the disciplinary process is not to comment on it publicly while it’s pending. There is also a pending matter in the courts here involving that individual. So that’s another pending matter that I want to respect."
“I will say I expect all of our agents, all of our analysts, all of our professional staff, to use good judgment. We try to train people to exercise good judgment, and I think that’s what we rightly and what the American people rightly expect of all of them.”
As for FBI policy, Wray said agents are expected and encouraged to carry their guns off-duty.
“That’s been true for a long, long time, even when they’re off-duty,” he said. “But we also, as I said as I said earlier, expect them to use good judgment, and when they go through training at Quantico, where I will be again tomorrow for another graduation, you know they’re trained extensively on using that kind of good judgment. It’s a long, very rigorous training, and part of the point of it, given what firearms represent in terms of safety issues, good judgment is paramount.”
Wray’s visit was part of his effort to spend time in all 56 of the FBI’s field offices before the end of the year.
And though there were no questions about the controversies swirling around the agency – or about President Trump’s many broadsides against the intelligence community – Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman asked him about a subject that came awfully close.
“How do you keep morale up at the FBI?” she wondered.
“You know I actually think our morale is actually doing just fine, contrary to what you might read or see on TV,” Wray said. “What I try to keep people focused on is the work, and the people we do the work for. And the people we do the work for are our partners, the victims, the victims’ families.
“And if we focus on that stuff, I think we’re doing just fine.”
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