FBI Director Wray defends bureau in wake of Republican criticism

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation defended his employees on Thursday against a growing chorus of accusations by Republicans, including President Donald Trump, that its agents were allowing political bias to seep into their investigations.

In testimony before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Christopher Wray said he believed the reputation of the FBI was not, as Trump recently wrote on Twitter, “in tatters.”

“The agents, analysts and staff of the FBI are big boys and girls. We understand we will take criticism from all corners,” Wray said.

“My experience has been that our reputation is quite good.”

Republicans had in recent weeks stepped up criticism of the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating whether Trump campaign aides had colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The move is widely seen as a tactic to undermine Mueller’s investigation, which has so far led to criminal charges against four people from Trump’s inner circle.

It comes as Republicans prepare to head into a potentially challenging midterm 2018 congressional election cycle.

Republicans have sought to re-litigate questions relating to the FBI’s handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, and questioned whether Justice Department officials gave her preferential treatment in their decision not to charge her with a crime.

They have criticized former FBI Director James Comey for publicly announcing a decision not to refer Clinton for prosecution and asked whether the decision-making was politically tainted.

Wray took over the helm of the FBI after Trump abruptly fired Comey earlier this year.

Incoming FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks to Federal Bureau of Investigation employees during his installation ceremony at FBI headquarters in Washington, U.S., September 28, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

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