WASHINGTON (CN) – The FBI tapped a slew of agency veterans for new executive appointments Friday morning even as the call by Republicans for a leadership purge at the bureau and the Department of Justice ratchet up to a crescendo.
Just before the agency announcement, President Trump slammed former FBI Director James Comey as an “untruthful slime ball” on Twitter, calling it a “great honor” to fire him.
The tweets came the day after the leak of unflattering excerpts about the president from Comey’s new book. Among other things, Comey called Trump “unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values.”
Despite fiery Republican rhetoric, including threats from Rep. Devin Nunes of California to impeach FBI director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein if they don’t disclose a document used to launch the FBI’s Russia investigation, the new FBI appointees each have more than 20 years of experience at the FBI.
David Bowdich – who took over as acting deputy director for Andrew McCabe – will fill that role full time now. McCabe was fired last month two days shy of his retirement, just weeks after announcing he would use accrued vacation time to serve out his remaining time at the bureau.
As detailed in an April 13 FBI press release, Bowdich started as a special agent in the San Diego field office in 1995, later moving to the counterterrorism division in Los Angeles where he became the assistant director and oversaw the 2015 San Bernardino mass shooting investigation.
Bowdich had been serving as the associate deputy director, overseeing personnel, budget and administrative issues, along with the insider-threat program.
The FBI also promoted Paul Abbate, who started as a special agent in New York in 1996, as associate deputy director. Among other appointments, Wray named David Resch, who started as a special agent in 1996 in Houston, as executive assistant director in the Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services division, along with Andrew Vale as the executive assistant director of human resources. Vale began as a special agent in 1991 in Newark, N.J.
Nancy McNamara was named as assistant director of the FBI’s Washington field office. She, too started as a special agent in 1996 in New York.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment about the new FBI appointments, but press secretary Sarah Sanders echoed her boss during an afternoon press conference, taking aim at Comey.
“Instead of being remembered as a dedicated servant in the pursuit of justice – like so many of his other colleagues at the FBI – Comey will be forever known as a disgraced partisan hack that broke his sacred trust with the president of the United States, the dedicated agents of the FBI and the American people he vowed to faithfully serve,” Sanders said. “One of the president’s greatest achievements will go down as firing director James Comey.”
Former FBI Agent Luke Hunt meanwhile said in an email that the bureau will carry on despite the heated rhetoric.
“Although both the leadership and the rank and file will continue to focus on the bureau’s mission, it’s difficult to think that many are not disheartened by the partisan attacks and affronts to the rule of law,” he said.
But Hunt, who teaches criminal justice at Radford University, said Friday’s appointments reflect a well-established process of rising through the ranks at the bureau.
“FBI agents begin their careers conducting investigations in the field; they may then leave the field to pursue ever higher management positions by slowly moving through the promotion bureaucracy,” he said. “This is what we see in today’s appointments: seasoned professionals who have undoubtedly learned how to navigate political waters.”
The appointments come as partisan attacks on the FBI by GOP hardliners have escalated while pressure from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe mounts.
Rosenstein appointed Mueller to take over the probe after Trump fired Comey in May.
Though tasked with investigating Russia’s attack on the 2016 U.S. presidential election to boost Trump’s chances, Mueller is also looking at whether members of the Trump campaign coordinated with that effort.
The investigation, which started under Comey, has been a constant thorn in Trump’s side since he took office.
Republican attacks on the FBI have only sharpened since Monday when agents raided the office, home and hotel room of longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen, whom prosecutors confirmed Friday is the subject of a criminal investigation.
The government has not revealed what crime Cohen is suspected of committing, and the underlying warrant remains under seal. News reports citing anonymous sources say agents were looking for evidence concerning Cohen’s $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, which she claims was made in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with the president.
Confirming a report by Cohen on Friday, prosecutors said that the Special Counsel’s Office (SCO) did refer the investigation to the Southern District of New York but that the investigation by the deputy U.S. attorney there “has proceeded independent from the SCO’s investigation.”
Following the raid, President Trump accused the Department of Justice of carrying out a “witch hunt” – a familiar refrain for him concerning matters related to Mueller’s investigation. Trump, who denies any collusion with Russia and calls it a made up story, said the raid was a “disgraceful situation.”