Washington : Donald Trump bemoaned the “shame” of the FBI on Friday, then flew to one of the agency’s campuses and declared: “You are great people.” The US president also made the false claim that foreign countries send the “worst of the worst” to America through the green card immigration lottery system.
Having recently claimed the FBI’s reputation is in “tatters”, Trump launched his latest criticism following reports that former an FBI agent watered down director James Comey’s statement – in the midst of the 2016 presidential election race – on Hillary Clinton’s private email server and text messages. It’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI,” the president told reporters on his way to boarding the Marine One helicopter. “But we’re going to rebuild the FBI . It will be bigger and better than ever.” Edits to the Comey draft statement appeared to soften the bureau’s finding in its 2016 investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. “But it is very sad when you look at those documents,” Trump added. “And how they’ve done that is really, really disgraceful, and you have a lot of very angry people that are seeing it. It’s a very sad thing to watch, I will tell you that.” The president then flew to an FBI campus in Quantico, Virginia, where he attended a ceremony for graduates of a 10-week professional course for US and international law enforcement officers. In his usual improvisational style, Trump seemed to go off script at one point as if to offer reassurance: “By the way, you are great people, you are incredible people,” he told the gathering. “Just so you understand, you are great people doing an incredible job.”
Critics regard Trump’s frequent attacks on the FBI as an attempt to undermine the credibility of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of alleged collusion between his election campaign and Russia. FBI director Christopher Wray said Trump was the first president to address a graduating class at the FBI training centre since Richard Nixon. Trump was introduced by attorney general Jeff Sessions, after the pair sat awkwardly alongside one another on stage, apparently not talking and studiously avoiding eye contact.
Trump has been openly critical of his attorney general’s decision to recuse himself from oversight of the Mueller inquiry into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and with Russia. Trump said earlier this year “if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else”. In his rambling address yesterday, the president seemed intent on beginning to heal the rift with the FBI and boosting his law and order credentials. “With me as your president, America’s police will have a true friend and loyal champion in the White House – more loyal than anyone else can be.” He complained: “Police departments are overstretched, they’re under-funded and they’re totally under-appreciated, except by me... Anti-police sentiment is wrong and it’s dangerous and we will not stand for it... We believe criminals who kill police officers should get the death penalty.”
Not for the first time, Trump bemoaned violent crime in the cities of Chicago and Baltimore, both of which have big African American populations. “What the hell is going on in Chicago?” he demanded. “What the hell is happening there?” Citing recent terrorist attacks in New York, Trump condemned chain migration which allows family members to join relatives and the diversity immigrant visa programme, also known as the green card lottery. “They have a lottery: you pick people,” he said peevishly, motioning his hand as if drawing a name out of a hat. “Do you think the country’s giving us their best people?” He held out his arms in mock incredulity. “No. What kind of a system is that?
“They come in by lottery. They give us their worst people. They put ‘em in a bin but in his hand, when he’s pickin’ ‘em, is really the worst of the worst. ‘Congratulations, you’re going to the United States, it’s OK.’ What a system, lottery system.” In fact the US Department of State – not the foreign countries the applicants come from – chooses who has been accepted by the lottery. Trump added angrily: “We’re calling on Congress to end chain migration and end the visa lottery system and replace it with a merit-based system of immigration.”
The tirade had echoes of the billionaire businessman’s infamous campaign launch at Trump Tower in New York in June 2015 when he declared: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Under the green card lottery, up to 55,000 visas are distributed annually to a random selection of countries with lower rates of immigration to the US. Applicants are subject to a minimum education or work requirement. Guidelines posted on the state department website list these as the equivalent of high school in the US or a comparable course of study, and at least two years of experience over the last five years in an occupation requiring a minimum of two years training or experience to perform.Trump prompted laughter among the law enforcement and family attendees when he attacked the media. “There’s the fake news back there: look!’ he said, pointing to the back of the room. “No, actually some of them are fine people. Let’s see, who’s back there. Yeah, about 30%.”