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GOP Access to FBI Files Rattles Agents Caught in Political Fight

The Justice Department’s decision to give congressional Republican access to documents about FBI investigations risks uncovering sensitive sources or material and poses a critical early exam for bureau Director Christopher Wray, current and former U.S. law enforcement officers say.

Some bureaucrats view government departments as capitulating to a small group of Republican who are intent on helping President Donald Trump undermine the soundnes of the FBI and, by extension, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump or any of his associates helped Russia interfere in the 2016 election.

It’s the most recent setback for a law enforcement agency that has long comprised itself out as doggedly independent and above partisan politics, only to be besieged over the last two years by the issue of its handling of politically sensitive investigations into Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Trump.

One agent said he’s now concerned that forms identifying FBI informants would be handed over to Congress. If that happened, he said, it would induce him to envision carefully about whether to withhold sensitive info from future reports.

Another agent said recent declaration about the members of the bureau by Trump and congressional Republicans have built it more difficult for him to get informants to open up.

Trump has tweeted that the Federal Bureau of Investigations is” in Tatters — worst in history” and has said a senior official committed “treason.”

A QuickTake Q& A: Your Guide to Understanding the Trump-Russia Saga

As the Russia investigation continues to hang over the White House, Republicans in Congress have sought to turn the tables on the FBI by calling into question the fairness and methods of senior agents. They’ve been requesting the documentation and holding public hearings that focus on alleged wrongdoing or political bias by agents.

FBI Chief of Staff James Rybicki is to be interviewed behind closed doors on Thursday by members of two House committees, according to two officials familiar with the plans.

The controversy over making Republicans access to sensitive investigative materials has struck a nerve because it comes after months of rare, intense political its further consideration of the FBI, including former Director James Comey’s handling of the investigation into former Secretary of State Clinton’s use of a private email server.

In the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign, Comey raged Republican by announcing that there wasn’t enough indication to accuse Clinton for mishandling classified information, a departure from normal procedures calling for the members of the bureau to remain silent when crimes aren’t procured. Then, he indignation Democrats by briefly reopening the inquiry shortly before election period, a move Clinton argues expense her the election.

The actions by Comey, who was fired by Trump in May, and the criticism that followed began a shifting for an organization that was long viewed as apolitical and whose presidents won supporting from both parties.

Unrest in Ranks

A dozen current and former officers — all from the career ranks of the FBI and Justice Department, as opposed to the president’s political appointees — spoke to Bloomberg News on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters and express their concerns.

Their opinions weren’t uniform but collectively represent unrest and morale problems within the ranks of agents, lawyers and career officers in response to strikes on the soundnes and leadership of the FBI and Justice Department.

Thomas O’Connor, president of the FBI Agents Association, said special agents” concentrate on the Constitution and protecting the public” and” their work should be recognized , not denigrated .” The association represents 14,000 active and retired special agents.

” Attacks on our character and demeaning statements about the FBI will not deter agents from continuing to do what we have always done — dedicate our lives to protecting the American people ,” O’Connor said in a statement.” The true narrative of the FBI cannot be reduced to partisan talking points .”

The FBI declined to comment for this story.

Meeting With Ryan

Tensions between Republican and the Justice Department deepened in recent weeks as lawmakers demanded sensitive documents and agency leaders defied turning them over. The stalemate led to a dramatic meet between House Speaker Paul Ryan, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Wray to discuss potential disdain of Congress accuses for failing to turn over documents.

In the end, the Justice Department agreed to give lawmakers substance they requested, though it’s unclear whether Republicans will get everything they want.

On Jan. 11, the Justice Department began committing two House committees what could amount to more than 1.2 million records about FBI investigative decisions built in 2016, including related to the investigation into Clinton. Additional documents are expected to be provided in the coming days.

Current and former bureaucrats conveyed a number of concerns. One agent said some officials working on Russian counterintelligence probes of various kinds might now be hesitating to report their findings to superiors, given the political furor over the Mueller investigation.

A former senior agent said here credibility of the FBI is on the line, and close attention is being paid to how the situation is handled by Wray, who took over as administrator in August. Agents are waiting to see how assertive the administrator will be in protecting them and other job public officials and whether he’ll refuse to hand over documents that might compromise covert sources and procedures, the former agent said.

Bias Alleged

Other officials said they’re worried about an effort by Trump and his allies to oust anyone seen as being disloyal to the president. During a hearing in December, Republican Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas named specific FBI officials and asked Wray whether they’ve ever openly displayed a bias against the Trump administration.

Republican criticism about Mueller’s probe intensified after the recent revelation that a top FBI agent assigned to the special counsel’s squad mailed anti-Trump text in the summer of 2016. One exchange by the agent, Peter Strzok, with another senior official included statements “that there’s no way” Trump would win the election but” we can’t take the health risks .” Mueller removed Strzok after learning of the texts.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 11, Trump said the agent committed” a treasonous act” by plotting to overturn the outcome of the elections. The chairman also called for Republican examiners in Congress to conclude their probes swiftly.

Wray hasn’t said anything publicly in response to Trump’s suggestion of treason. Nonetheless, he has repeatedly defended the unity and professionalism of the FBI workforce in speeches and congressional testimony.

Inspector General

The documents now being became over were requested by Republican leaders of the House Judiciary Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Some of the requested documents were outlined in a Nov. 3 letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Rosenstein. The documents sought appear to dovetail with the regions that the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, is investigating, such as the handling of the Clinton probe. Horowitz plans to wrap up his investigation in March or April.

It’s uncertain whether the information being become over might add to Republican claims of bias in favor of Clinton and against Trump during the presidential campaign, and even to efforts to undercut Mueller’s investigation.

” We crave the information that Horowitz has ,” Republican Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio said. He said interviews likewise are being arranged with seven FBI and Justice Department bureaucrats, as well as others.

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Holding in a sneeze can be a literal pain in the neck

Why does it cost $32,093 just to give birth in America?