Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters
President Donald Trump's Fox News propagandists have been urging him for months to fire FBI Director Christopher Wray because they consider him insufficiently willing to pursue their conspiracy theories in order to boost Trump's political standing. In recent days, they've seized upon Wray's handling of the smear stories of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden in calling for his removal.
Their commentary is having an impact on their most powerful viewer. Trump has long held an authoritarian view of the federal law enforcement apparatus, treating it as an arm of his personal and political desires. Disappointed that Wray has proved unwilling to help his reelection campaign by publicly announcing an investigation into the Bidens, the president now reportedly wants to replace the FBI director.
"President Trump and his advisers have repeatedly discussed whether to fire" Wray "after Election Day," The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing their complaints that Wray and Attorney General William Barr "have not done what Trump had hoped — indicate that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden or other Biden associates are under investigation."
The paper further reported: "People familiar with the discussions say Trump wants official action similar to the announcement made 11 days before the last presidential election by then-FBI Director James B. Comey, who informed Congress he had reopened an investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state after potential new evidence had been discovered."
The account follows a Daily Beast report earlier this month, which similarly found that Trump wants to oust Wray following the election due to the FBI director's "ongoing public divergences with Trump, and Wray's reluctance to settle Trump's scores" by pursuing right-wing claims of "deep state" malfeasance. Notably, the Beast linked the story to the president's media diet, reporting that Trump has brought up negative TV commentary he'd seen about Wray, including from Fox Business host Lou Dobbs.
Numerous Fox personalities have called for Wray's removal in the past. They view him as "part of the deep state," as Trump ally and Fox host Jeanine Pirro put it, and are angered by what they view as his failure to pursue their "Obamagate" conspiracy theory. Dobbs is perhaps Wray's loudest and most consistent critic -- he has been calling for the FBI director's firing since at least October 2017, and more recently has claimed that he should also be indicted.
In recent days, they've added Wray's handling of the Hunter Biden smear story to their case against him. The story is based on emails from a laptop computer allegedly left at a Delaware repair shop by Hunter Biden in April 2019. The laptop was reportedly turned over to the FBI in December 2019, while a copy of its contents was provided to Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who has used it to seed stories in right-wing outlets alleging corruption by the Bidens. While the story has consumed right-wing outlets like Fox, it has largely escaped widespread coverage by mainstream news outlets due to its lack of credibility. Like Trump, his Fox supporters want Wray to violate department policy and publicly announce that the Bidens are under investigation, hoping to recreate the electoral magic of the Comey letter. Because he hasn't done that, they're calling for him to be fired.
Pirro, a close ally of the president who played a key role in forcing out former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, claimed that Wray "needs to be hauled before Congress to find out under oath why he didn't share the information from the laptop with the Department of Justice" on her October 17 show, just days after the Hunter Biden story broke. "I told you months ago that Christopher Wray needed to be fired," she added.
Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett told Sean Hannity on his radio show two days later that Wray "must be fired and he must be fired now" because he "continues to cover this up." "The truth will never be exposed until Christopher Wray is sacked from his job as director of the FBI," Jarrett added, claiming that Wray has ignored "a treasure trove of evidence of illegality and corruption by Joe Biden and Hunter Biden."
"I think it's clear that Director Wray is not the transformative figure that we needed after James Comey," Fox contributor Jason Chaffetz told Dobbs on Wednesday. "I think it's time for him to go. I think Donald Trump, if he's, hopefully he's reelected, will fire him the day after the election."
"President Trump, after this election when he is reelected, needs to fire Christopher Wray. He is not doing his job," Fox contributor Sara Carter added later in the same program. "This story is fundamentally probably one of the most important stories of our time right now, and we need to get to the truth of what happened with Hunter Biden and if there was any criminality because there is a predicate for an investigation here."
Dobbs replied that the Hunter Biden story is "second only to the largest scandal, the largest political crime in our country's history, and that is the assault on President Trump, the efforts to block his candidacy and then to overthrow his presidency and for now in the fourth year, we are watching this unfold, trying to protect and bolster the candidacy of his opponent."
Other Trump media allies are also pushing for Wray's removal over his handling of the Bidens. Former Trump aide Steve Bannon has called for him to be fired if he "doesn't have specific answers" about the FBI's pursuit of the story. Giuliani, meanwhile, told Bannon that Wray "should resign" and consider ritual suicide.
Fox has a back-up plan if it can't bend Wray to its will: The network has promoted calls for either Barr or Trump himself to appoint a special counsel to investigate the Bidens. An announcement during the campaign would presumably help Trump's reelection hopes, while appointing one afterward would amount to an unprecedented assault on the rule of law, a vengeful effort to either damage a potential Biden administration or punish his defeated opponent.
Fueled by Fox, Trump has raged against the "deep state" throughout his administration, repeatedly threatening or carrying out the removal of law enforcement officials his network friends said were not committed to pursuing their conspiracy theories. The result has been a corruption of the Justice Department without recent precedent. But the president is not satisfied -- and he never will be, as long as his network propagandists are telling him there's one more anti-Trump operative to root out, and one more partisan victory the law enforcement apparatus should be granting him.
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