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FBI confidence in leadership fell in year after Comey’s firing

WASHINGTON — One year after President Trump fired FBI director James Comey, agents say they have less confidence in the ethics and vision of the bureau’s new leadership, according to internal survey data.

The survey results further undercut one of the explanations that Trump and his aides gave for firing Comey and replacing him with Christopher A. Wray. Trump said the bureau was in turmoil and agents had lost confidence in Comey.

The internal data suggest that Trump either misread those views or mischaracterized them.

As a whole, morale at the FBI remains high, despite a barrage of attacks by the president and his allies.

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Agents said they are proud to work at the FBI, believe in the mission, look forward to going to work and believe their job makes a difference. Scores in those areas remained steady.

By themselves, the numbers do not explain the decline in leadership scores. Wray was largely unknown to most agents when he came into office during one of the most tumultuous times in FBI history.

He brought with him a fresh leadership team and a more low-key style than his predecessor. He has also opted not to spar publicly with Trump, even as the president has attacked the bureau and accused agents of being part of a “witch hunt” against him.

Neither the overall positive results nor the declining leadership scores back up Trump’s version of events, in which he brought in Wray to stabilize a wobbly, discredited agency.

The figures were obtained through a public records request by the blog Lawfare, which conducted its own analysis and shared the raw data with The New York Times.

The FBI had no comment on the results. The White House did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

FBI officials use the survey, collected around March each year, to identify problem areas. The survey includes dozens of questions about every aspect of bureau life, and the results are scored on a scale of 5. Anything above 3.81 is considered successful.

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Scores this year fell to below that threshold on key questions related to FBI leadership. Agents were asked whether they were inspired by the director’s vision and whether they believe his senior leadership team maintained high standards of integrity.

Agents in the field gave Wray a 3.58 for his leadership vision, a decline of two-thirds of a point. And they gave Wray and his leadership team a 3.49 on the ethics question, a half-point decline. A third question, asking whether agents had a high level of respect for senior FBI executives, also resulted in lower scores, though the decline was not as steep as the other two.

Agents at headquarters in Washington also scored Wray and his team lower than they did the previous leadership team last year, but not by as wide a margin as employees working in the field.

New York Times