Washington (CNN)FBI Director Christopher Wray felt so much pressure from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to make staffing changes among the senior ranks at the FBI that he threatened to resign from his post, a source familiar with the conversation tells CNN.
Sessions communicated to Wray, who was hand-picked by President Donald Trump and sworn in in August, that he needed a fresh start with his senior team at the FBI, the source said. Sessions specifically suggested the bureau’s deputy director, Andrew McCabe, and its top lawyer, James Baker.
It is not clear if Sessions explicitly told Wray to fire the two men or simply reassign them, according to the source. Wray, in turn, threatened to quit if McCabe was removed or reassigned from his post. Baker was reassigned late last year.
Axios first reported Monday that Wray threatened to resign if Sessions did not stop pressuring him to fire McCabe.
McCabe has come under public criticism by Trump and his allies in recent weeks over the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation and his connections to anti-Trump messages sent between two FBI employees during the campaign.
The White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah issued a statement Monday praising Wray while attacking other senior FBI officials in response to Axios’ reporting.
“The President has enormous respect for the thousands of rank-and-file F.B.I. agents who make up the world’s most professional and talented law enforcement agency,” Shah said.
“He believes politically motivated senior leaders, including former Director (James) Comey and others he empowered, have tainted the agency’s reputation for unbiased pursuit of justice. The President appointed Chris Wray because he is a man of true character and integrity, and the right choice to clean up the misconduct at the highest levels of the F.B.I. and give the rank and file confidence in their leadership,” Shah said.
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