William Webster, the 95-year-old former director of both the CIA and the FBI describes both Attorney General William Barr and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani as long-time personal friends.
Yet, the veteran member of the Republican elite has been so disturbed by Donald Trump’s attacks on the FBI and the rule of law in general that he felt compelled to pen a fiery op-ed in The New York Times warning the nation of the dire threat it is now facing under the regime of this president.
Webster’s unique position as the only person to have headed both of the premiere federal agencies dedicated to domestic and international security gives him singular authority to opine on the value of the rule of law and how it is now being undermined by the people who were nominally sworn to protect it.
“Order protects liberty, and liberty protects order. Today, the integrity of the institutions that protect our civil order are, tragically, under assault from too many people whose job it should be to protect them,” Webster writes in his opening paragraph.
“The rule of law is the bedrock of American democracy, the principle that protects every American from the abuse of monarchs, despots and tyrants. Every American should demand that our leaders put the rule of law above politics,” he continues.
One of the most “deeply disturbing” recent developments that has upset the veteran lawman and judge is Donald Trump’s contention that the FBI is a “broken agency” and that its current leadership is unqualified to repair it.
Webster sees the president as setting up current FBI Director Christopher Wray — who has contradicted a number of Trump’s most outrageous deep state and Ukraine election interference conspiracy theories — as the fall guy in the president’s attempts to bring the FBI under the control of his handpicked cronies and eliminate the bureau’s independence from the political machinations of the president.
The FBI’s freedom from political interference is integral to the proper functioning of our democracy in Webster’s eyes.
“Over my nine-plus years as F.B.I. director, I reported to four honorable attorneys general. Each clearly understood the importance of the rule of law in our democracy and the critical role the F.B.I. plays in the enforcement of our laws. They fought to protect both, knowing how important it was that our F.B.I. remain independent of political influence of any kind,” he writes.
Having served under both Presidents Carter and Reagan, Webster claims to have never felt a bit of pressure to infuse politics into the work of the agencies he led. He castigates both his friend Attorney General Barr and Donald Trump for casting aspersions on the FBI and risking lasting damage to the bureau.
“Calling F.B.I. professionals “scum,” as the president did, is a slur against people who risk their lives to keep us safe. Mr. Barr’s charges of bias within the F.B.I., made without providing any evidence and in direct dispute of the findings of the nonpartisan inspector general, risk inflicting enduring damage on this critically important institution,” Webster insists.
“The country can ill afford to have a chief law enforcement officer dispute the Justice Department’s own independent inspector general’s report and claim that an F.B.I. investigation was based on “a completely bogus narrative.” In fact, the report conclusively found that the evidence to initiate the Russia investigation was unassailable. There were more than 100 contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Russian agents during the 2016 campaign, and Russian efforts to undermine our democracy continue to this day. I’m glad the F.B.I. took the threat seriously. It is important, Mr. Wray said last week, that the inspector general found that ‘the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization,’” he writes.
Webster goes on to express his confidence in Director Wray and the professional integrity of the FBI as a “professional agency worthy of respect and support,” calling the Trump administration’s attacks on it “dangerous and unwarranted.”
The elder statesman of the intelligence community reserves his “profound” disappointment for a man whom he also considers a long term and respected friend, Rudy Giuliani.
“His activities of late concerning Ukraine have, at a minimum, failed the smell test of propriety. I hope he, like all of us, will redirect to our North Star, the rule of law, something so precious it is greater than any man or administration,” Webster delicately describes Giuliani’s recent work on behalf of Trump.
In the end, it is the rule of law, not politics that Webster elevates as the ultimate value that should be defended on a non-partisan basis. He ends his op-ed on a note of optimism as someone who has seen America weather the social storms of the 20th century — depression, wars, terrorism, racial strife, a presidential resignation — and emerge intact.
“I continue to believe in and pray for the ability of all Americans to overcome our differences and pursue the common good. Order protects liberty, and liberty protects order,” Webster concludes.
Let’s hope that those members of the GOP now defined by the legacy of Donald Trump heed the words of an old school Republican with the perspective to see how dangerous the actions of Donald Trump and his enablers are to the future of our country and look deep into their consciences as they consider the president’s impeachment and removal from office.
A return to the normalcy that Webster describes is deeply needed.
You can read the entire op-ed from former Director of both the FBI and CIA William Webster by following this link.
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