Exclusive: Ex-intel chief urged Trump to fire FBI Director Wray in 2020

Ric Grenell recounts when FBI agents admitted their bosses ordered political redactions to documents.

Updated: August 8, 2022 - 11:31pm

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​​Former acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell is warning that the FBI is facing a "real crisis" from partisan tampering with investigations, revealing he actually urged then-President Donald Trump to fire Director Chris Wray back in 2020 when such concerns first became obvious.

"I told President Trump we got to get rid of him," Grenell said Monday in an interview with Just the News on the John Solomon Reports podcast. "[Wray] was terrible. First of all, he didn't understand what was happening. He was so aloof to what was happening down below and had just a knee jerk reaction to everything just to protect the status quo."

Grenell made the comments just hours before Trump announced Monday the FBI raided his Mar-a-Lago home and office in Florida, cracking a safe and removing documents in an apparent probe into suspected missing classified documents.  

Grenell, who also served as U.S. ambassador to Germany, said the reasons he urged Wray's dismissal two years ago were rooted in his inability to see politics ruining the storied law enforcement agency,

"He's a creature of the FBI," Grenell said. "And he views everything as a PR exercise. Don't criticize the FBI. Don't talk about any failures at the FBI because he loves the brand. And it was a brand exercise."

Several former Trump officials, including former Attorney General Bill Barr, reportedly learned the 45th president was contemplating firing Wray in 2020 and advised against it. Trump had already fired ex-Director James Comey for misconduct in the Hillary Clinton email probe back in 2017.

Grenell described an episode in spring 2020 when he was acting DNI and was trying to declassify documents about FBI misconduct in the Russia collusion probe and its pursuit of former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, and there "was a lot of pushback."

He said FBI leaders told him frontline agents adamantly didn't want the memos declassified and released to the public because they would reveal investigative sources and methods.

"I said I'd like to talk to these FBI agents who actually redacted this information," he recalled. "And oh, boy, they did not want me to. But I did. I pushed through, and because I had the position, I was able to do it. I said, 'You know look, I'm about to release this information. But I'm asking you to tell me. If this is really a source or a method, point it to me. What am I missing here?'

"Did you know, John, that the FBI rank and file agents who did that said to me, 'We agree with you. We didn't redact this. Our bosses did.' And it was so obvious to me that there was a political manipulation from up top."

Grenell said the concerns about the credibility of the FBI have only worsened since, citing recent revelations from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) that multiple FBI whistleblowers have come forward to allege improper political meddling in sensitive investigations. The allegations include launching an investigation of Trump without proper predicate and pressuring to shut a Hunter Biden probe by claiming legitimate evidence was "disinfirmation."

Wray said last week during congressional testimony he found the allegations "very troubling," but Grenell said the problems ultimately reside with Wray as the top leader who sets the tone for the bureau.

"The leadership is not willing to keep politics out," he said. "And that's the problem. We've got a real crisis when it comes to the leadership at the FBI and the leadership at DOJ. I do think that the rank-and-file folks are beginning to get sick of it. I know a lot of them. And they've been very nervous about the political payback that would come if they spoke up."

Kevin Brock, the former FBI assistant director of intelligence, said Grenell's account "strikes me as true, and it resonates that way" because of the bias and conduct exposed during the unraveling of the Russia collusion investigation. He singled out decisions made by former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

"We know that the case agent on the Michael Flynn case lobbied to get the case closed because he stated from the very beginning it didn't have substance, but he was overruled at that Strzok-McCabe level," Brock told the "Just the News, Not Noise" television program on Monday evening.

But the former FBI executive said there is lots of evidence the bureau is not rotten to its core, saying allegations that the entire agency is corrupt is a "leap even Evil Knievel wouldn't have made."

He cited the agents who have come forward as whistleblowers and those who tried to shut down the Russia probe when it lacked evidence or cause as proof there is still good across the agency.

But Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who chaired oversight hearings a decade ago into law enforcement corruption, said the excuses being offered today for blatant political weaponization of the federal government are simply not believable.  

"Reminds me of the story of the child whose hand's in the cookie jar and mom says, 'Why are you taking cookies?' And he says, 'What cookies?' What's your what happened? That's where we are. The denials are so impossible to do anything but laugh at."

Issa said the current posture of the FBI failing to acknowledge its troubles for what they are means House Republicans need to move swiftly and decisively to conduct oversight starting in January if they win control of Congress and not let bureaucrats run out the clock."We need to be faster and more aggressive," Issa said. "We need to work with Judicial Watch and others, because they want to run the clock out on us for that next two years the way they did when I took control of the Oversight Committee" back in the Obama years.

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