Friday, September 18, 2020

Interesting Discussion On Chris Wray's Future

This afternoon there was an interesting discussion that I've excerpted below from Shipwreckedcrew's twitter thread. It features mostly SWC, but additional comments are from Andy McCarthy and two former Bureau guys: James Gagliano and Jim Casey. So, you have a bit of a balanced perspective--two DoJ guys and two Bureau guys. We all know McCarthy and SWC, but here's some background on Gagliano and Casey. I think the background is important in assessing their views as expressed here. 

James Gagliano

Prior to joining CNN, Gagliano served 25 years with the FBI. During his career with FBI, he was appointed to a variety of investigative, tactical resolution, crisis management, undercover, mid-level and senior management positions, including assignment to the FBI’s elite counterterror unit, the Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), and as the Senior Team Leader of the FBI New York Field Division’s SWAT Team. During the Global War on Terrorism, between 2002 and 2003, he deployed to Afghanistan three separate times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He was awarded FBI’s second highest award for valor, the Medal of Bravery, for his SWAT Team’s actions in June of 1993. In one of his final FBI assignments, he studied Spanish language at US State Department, then served as the deputy legal attaché and acting legal attaché at the United States Embassy in México City, México, prior to retiring in 2016.

A 1987 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and US Army veteran, he was commissioned as an Infantry Officer, serving as a light infantry platoon leader and company executive officer in the 10th Mountain Division, while stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia and Fort Drum, New York between 1988 and 1991. His military awards include the Airborne, Air Assault, Jungle Expert and Expert Infantryman’s badges, as well as the Ranger tab.

In my opinion, that stint in Mexico City may have been the most important time in his career in terms of absorbing a higher level intel understanding, one that required gaining a knowledge of the FBI's interactions with the full range of USIC agencies. Other than that, his career appears to have been heavily oriented toward more tactical LE concerns. 


James Casey, a 21-year veteran of the FBI, has been named Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the FBI’s Jacksonville field office. Director Robert S. Mueller, III appointed him to this position to replace SAC Michael J. Folmar, who is returning to FBI Headquarters as Deputy Assistant Director of the Training Division. Most recently, Mr. Casey served as Section Chief of the Counterintelligence Division’s Eurasian Section.

Mr. Casey entered on duty as a special agent of the FBI in 1987. Upon completion of training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, he was assigned to the Detroit field office, where he primarily worked international terrorism and undercover investigations. In 1995, he was promoted to a supervisory special agent position in the Counterterrorism Division at FBI Headquarters. In that role, Mr. Casey assisted with response to incidents such as the Oklahoma City bombing and the explosion of TWA 800.

In late 1997, Mr. Casey was assigned to the Indianapolis field office as the Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence Supervisor. Immediately after 9/11, he returned to FBI Headquarters to assist with increasing the capacity of the Counterterrorism Division. He also traveled to the FBI’s Legal Attaché office in Manila to assist with leads related to 9/11 and al Qaeda.

In 2002, he was named Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cincinnati field office, and served as acting SAC for six months during his tenure there. During 2004 and 2005, he was assigned as a Director of Intelligence Programs on the National Security Council at the White House, where he focused on intelligence community reform and the development of the Bush Administration’s response to the 9/11 Commission and WMD Commission reports. Thereafter, Mr. Casey served as Section Chief of the Counterintelligence Division’s Eurasian Section at FBI Headquarters.

Casey appears to have had pretty much a career long orientation toward intelligence related matters, albeit often in smaller offices with less high profile programs. However his time at FBIHQ, the NSC, and Legat Manila were probably very significant in broadening his experience.


Replying to @JamesAGagliano

JG, Between now and November, I think there's a better chance that the Angels fire Mike Trout than that POTUS fires the FBI Director, no?

I'm gonna say that's a safe take. Barr has shown no inclination to rock the boat at FBI so far. On the other hand, Barr plays everything close to the vest and goes public only when he has a reason in mind for doing so. However, Wray's publicly expressed views clearly clash with those of Barr, and there's no possible way that Barr is unaware of that.

SWC jumps in:


Not sure I agree.  Firing Wray and naming/confirming a new FBI Director are different. I think Trump gets mileage with the base by firing Wray. Could he replace him prior to the election? Absolutely not. If Dems control Senate after the election, who could he get confirmed?

So the question really is whether the Admin is better off with Wray as Director or David Bowdich as Acting Director?

My view is that Barr will play it safe and leave Wray in place till the election. After that, all bets are off. If Trump wins, Barr will want to move aggressively to do something about the FBI--and "aggressive" is pretty much Barr's middle name. On the other hand, if Trump loses, well, what's the point?


Wray has deep ties to many actors in the Crossfire Hurricane saga--and has a close personal connection to Sally Yates. He was a Bush era contemporary with Comey, Mueller, and several others.

That means Wray is a DOJ guy who was brought in and affixed to the top of the Bureau--again.

That's an important point, one that I've made repeatedly. Parachuting in career prosecutors or judges to head the FBI is probably a bad idea in principle. Legal education is certainly a plus, but investigative experience--not just prosecutive--is also extremely important in understanding the institutional culture.


Bowdich, on the other hand, is an Agent: Albuquerque PD, San Diego Field Office, "drugs, guns and gangs", LA Field Office Ass't Director for Counter Terrorism -- they covered Pakistan. Seems to have no "politics" in his career. Never in New York, and only briefly at FBIHQ.

Bowdich is not a DOJ guy, not a "swamp creature". He fired Strzok when the recommendation from Office of Professional Responsibility was for a suspension and demotion.

I get SWC's point--he likes the idea of a Director with real agency experience. My concern with Bowdich is that he might be in over his head--after all, Director FBI is a political position, not something a "drugs, guns and gangs" kinda guy can just jump into. There's nothing in his background that suggests that he would be up to navigating the DC Swamp with a sure hand. It's fine that he appears to be an "outsider," but that also suggests that he may lack critical experience. It's a fine balance.


Wray might see his only path to hanging on as a Biden win and Sally Yates as AG.  I'm not sure I'd take the chance to wait and see if that's the case.

But, as I said, if it comes to an AG Yates, what does it matter--Wray or Bowdich? Bowdich could be gone overnight and nobody would say a word.


Replying to @shipwreckedcrew

Ship — I’m a huge Bowdich fan. But do you sense that firing Wray would be “for cause?” Wray has done nothing that equates to a fireable offense.

Dumping Wray exhibits panic, and also waters down the justifiable @Comey firing.

Wray isn’t James Comey. 

I disagree here.

cc: @AndrewCMcCarthy

Given Gagliano's background, I'd expect him to be a "huge Bowdich fan." That doesn't reassure me. OTOH, Gagliano's other points have merit. 


I don't think the a Director has to commit a "fireable" offense -- I think it is only necessary that the Director no longer enjoys the confidence of his superiors -- AG Barr and POTUS.

Reports so far have been that Barr has not been in favor of firing Wray.


Replying to @JamesAGagliano @shipwreckedcrew and 2 others

I agree with JG. Wray has not been as aggressive at righting the ship as I would have liked to see. And it’s possible he’s waiting for Durham before making major changes. But FBI Director is supposed to be a 10 year appointment in order to remain apolitical, so 3 in 3 years is not ideal.


Wray's weakness is that he was not Barr's pick -- he was hired by "the other guy".  But who was Wray's advocate when he was nominated?  Clearly someone from the Bush DOJ. Could have been Christie. I think it was Michael Luttig working through Federalist Society connections.

If Barr stays for a second term, he's going to want his own FBI Director who he has confidence in to undo what he sees as the source of the problems. Barr can do it himself at DOJ, but he can't do it at FBI without the Director.

I would say watch for Jeff Jensen if he wants the job.

I'm not sure Judge Luttig could pull that off on his own--despite his non-SCOTUS rock star credentials in conservative circles, I believe he would have needed some intermediary to get to Trump. There must have been people in the WH for that, or very close to Trump. They did Trump no favor.

However, SWC is, I believe, right that Barr will not be satisfied with Wray at the FBI in a second term. Barr's style would be to try to engineer a face saving exit--perhaps offering him some other position. But I think he'll want Wray gone simply because Wray is a problem. He's Swamp, and Barr knows he can't live with that at the FBI indefinitely.

All that said, I want to emphasize that solving these problems isn't a question of switching name plates at the head table or anything like that. The fundamental problem with reforming any governmental agency now is that no agency has control over personnel. Not really. Not in this age of court and legislature mandated diversity. That's just the reality. To make a difference calls for exceptional skills in whomever is selected--another reason for doubting that Bowdich is up to the task.

Jensen is an interesting idea, but very little about his career is know--not in specifics.


  1. No offense, Mark, but I'd be inclined to establish a new FBIHQ somewhere in the Aleutians and hang a "For Rent" sign on the current building.

    Anyone who doesn't want to move is welcome to find work elsewhere.

    1. Exactly. Barr could insist on a "reorg" of DoJ during Trump II. The reorg would relocate departments around the country:

      Criminal = Texas
      Civil = Illinois
      Civil Rights = Ohio
      DEA = Texas
      Marshals Service = Texas
      OIG = Kansas
      Tax = Pennsylvania
      Antitrust = Florida

  2. Not sure what McCarthy’s point is. The Angels’ owner has to be wondering why his front office genius Billy Eppler got him saddled with hugely overpaid Mike Trout based upon a fantastic record that happened several years before. We are watching the boy genius kind of fizzle out. Not the reliable star they planned on. Meanwhile other newcomers who came on the team with zero fanfare and far less in their paychecks are showing Trout up on offense and defense.

    Trout’s contract was for approximately $450million over 12 years, signed when he was 27…..

    Arte Moreno, the Angels’ owner, is a true blue Trump Republican who is campaigning for the Latino vote for Trump, telling them they MUST elect him.

    About Wray, he is a total dud. He’ll be gone when the President and Bill Barr think the time is right.

  3. Wray had long been a friend of Christie’s and had defended him in the Bridgegate thing.

    Wray’s firm was reported to have done legal work in the private sector for the Trump organization.

    Watching him in his hearing and other appearances, I was struck by how weak he seemed for someone in such a powerful position.

    1. Don't confuse Wray's testimony as weakness; he was doing his best to undercut Trump.

      If Trump wins, Wray will be cleaning out his desk in short order.

    2. Wray is a weak sister. A wuss. As Mark says, “a waste of space”. He would say in those hearings whatever he was told to say. No confusion about him here.

  4. Why not Ric Grenell? He has proven that he is not beholden to the FBI establishment, or maybe find a position for him in either the FBI or DOJ with the mission to take out the trash.

  5. Gagliano, who from his resume, has been a .fedgov creature for 99% of his career, with no evident non-governmental experience.

    So when he says,

    "Wray has done nothing that equates to a fireable offense,"

    it is obvious to any normal person that the obtuse Gagliano views the world through his rose-tinted, bureaucratic fedgov goggles.

    That "Wray has done nothing" is *entirely* the problem with Wray.

  6. There are three red lines for Trump for Wray:

    - China fbi actions / rhetoric
    - Antifa fbi actions / rhetoric
    - Durham Report

    Wray just got verbally warned by Trump on China and Antifa. It depends on Wrays actions if he will last through Election Day. Durham report is a joker. My guess is Trump will wait until after the election, as he did with Sessions. Trump has a ruthless ability to prioritize.