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FBI chief Christopher Wray rejects Trump’s ‘tatters’ tale

From left, Nancy Pelosi, Paul Ryan, Mike Pence,

From left, Nancy Pelosi, Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer meet in the Oval Office on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, to negotiate a budget deal to avoid a government shutdown. Credit: Bloomberg / Olivier Douliery

Rants and raves

Donald Trump wanted a loyal FBI director, and he got one with Christopher Wray. Except Wray’s message at a House hearing Thursday was about his loyalty to the 35,000 men and women of the bureau.

The president wrote on Twitter Sunday: “After years of Comey ... running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters — worst in History!” and demanded a housecleaning. Some Republicans on the House Judiciary panel echoed Trump complaints of bias against the president.

Asked to comment, Wray said, “There is no finer institution than the FBI and no finer people than the men and women who work there and are its very beating heart.”

He went on: “The FBI that I see is tens of thousands of agents and analysts and staff working their tails off to keep Americans safe from the next terrorist attack, gang violence, child predators, spies from Russia, China and North Korea and Iran.”

Wray deflected questions about James Comey’s handling of investigations, noting they are being reviewed by a Justice Department inspector general.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to recast Trump’s message as aimed at “political leaders in the FBI” under Comey, not rank-and-file agents.

Russia probe worries

Trump’s sniping at the FBI is tied to attacks by his supporters on the independence and credibility of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, The Washington Post reported.

Some members of Mueller’s team have been accused of political animus against Trump.

Janison: Making Franken sense

Al Franken, the comic-turned-senator-turned-disgraced-accused-harasser, didn’t leave them laughing as he bowed to Democratic colleagues’ demands that he resign Thursday. But he had a zinger ready for Trump and the president’s choice in the Alabama Senate race, Roy Moore.

“I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving, while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party,” Franken told the Senate.

It’s a contrast Democrats are playing up, but it’s unclear whether it will help them. Newsday’s Dan Janison sorts out differing scenarios.

Salt-of-the-earth billionaires club

Some of Trump’s wealthy New York friends pleaded with him at a fundraiser last weekend to change provisions in the GOP tax bill that could hurt them and the president’s home state, The Washington Post reported.

A specific complaint raised by real estate mogul Richard LeFrak and others: limitations on their ability to deduct state and local taxes. The same concern has been raised by New York Republicans in Congress on behalf of middle-class taxpayers who itemize deductions.

Trump’s response was “a little vague,” one attendee said, but he told them, “Maybe there are ways to try to be helpful.’ ”

Shutdown threat pushed back

The Republican majority in the House and a bipartisan group in the Senate approved a short-term spending measure to keep government open another two weeks — through Dec. 22 — while Trump met with leaders of both parties in search of longer-term answers.

Several issues divide the two sides — especially legislation to allow immigrants brought here illegally as children to stay — but all of the congressional leaders said they do not want to see a government shutdown.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, “We’re here in the spirit of let’s get it done.” See Tom Brune and Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.

Misremembering Pearl Harbor

The president and Melania Trump remembered Pearl Harbor Thursday, imperfectly. A tweet from the first lady had the wrong date for the Dec. 7, 1941, attack and Trump’s quote of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “day of infamy” speech was slightly off.

The Washington Post notes the goofs were not unprecedented. In 1988, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush — a World War II hero as a Navy bomber pilot — mystified a veterans group by declaring, “Today is Pearl Harbor Day” on Sept. 7.

What else is happening

  • Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a hero of the 1960s marches against Jim Crow laws, said he won’t attend Saturday’s opening of a civil rights museum in Mississippi because Trump is coming. Trump’s presence is an “insult to the people” honored by the museum, Lewis said.
  • Palestinian officials say they won’t meet with Vice President Mike Pence during his upcoming visit to the region because of Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. There were protests and clashes in Palestinian territories Thursday.
  • Sanders gave an explanation for Trump’s slurring of words during his speech on Jerusalem: “The president’s throat was dry.” She also disclosed that Trump will undergo a physical examination at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in “the first part of next year,” and that he’ll release the results.
  • An executive at a leading Russian social media company made several overtures to Trump’s campaign — including days before the November election — urging the candidate to create a page on the website to appeal to Russian Americans and Russians, the WaPo reports.
  • Corey Lewandowski, plugging his Trump campaign memoir, offered a new wrinkle. He told CNN that one of his duties as campaign manager was to run a steam iron over Trump’s pants while he was wearing them. Also pressed into that service was communications staffer Hope Hicks.
  • Trump is encouraging Maine’s flamboyant Gov. Paul LePage to challenging Sen. Angus King, a Democratic-aligned independent, The Washington Post reported. But LePage denies it.
  • The House Ethics Committee on Thursday cleared Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) of allegations that he disclosed classified information earlier this year about U.S. intelligence monitoring. The panel determined the information was not classified.

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