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Representative image

Monster of one’s making: Trump running after FBI with a pickaxe

Wray replaced the F.B.I. director Trump fired, James Comey, who had been nominated by Barack Obama and was the former deputy attorney general of George W. Bush’s Justice Department.

By Garrett M Graff

NEW YORK: Of all the weird and historically discordant moments and news stories of the Donald Trump era, few seem stranger than watching the former president and his allies demonise the F.B.I. as some sort of rogue “woke” Democratic deep state mob.

This has been happening for several years now, but in the days since the F.B.I. searched Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago, the bureau has attracted particularly withering criticism for its supposedly leftist persecution of Trump, and Republicans have even begun to call to “defund the corrupt F.B.I.”

Historically, though, the F.B.I. has been arguably the most culturally conservative and traditionally white Christian institution in the entire U.S. government.

It’s an institution so culturally conservative, even by the standards of law enforcement, that Democratic presidents have never felt comfortable — or politically emboldened — enough to nominate a Democrat to head the bureau.

That’s right: Far from being a bastion of progressive thinking, every single director of the F.B.I. has been a Republican-aligned official, going all the way back to its creation.

Such history suggests that the issue here is Trump and not institutional bias.

Its current director, Christopher Wray, who oversaw the agents conducting last week’s search of Mar-a-Lago, was nominated by Trump himself and came to the job with sterling Republican credentials: He was the head of the criminal division in George W. Bush’s Justice Department, a member of the conservative Federalist Society and a clerk for Judge J. Michael Luttig, a Republican judicial icon.

Wray replaced the F.B.I. director Trump fired, James Comey, who had been nominated by Barack Obama and was the former deputy attorney general of George W. Bush’s Justice Department.

His predecessor Robert Mueller, who served in the Justice Department for both Bush presidencies, was nominated by George W. Bush.

And before them — from Louis Freeh (a George H.W. Bush judge) to the F.B.I.’s founder, J. Edgar Hoover — all of the F.B.I.’s directors were Republican-aligned officials.

That political conservatism in the bureau’s ranks traces back to the culture that Hoover cultivated for a half-century, when the bureau viewed its role as policing and protecting a uniquely conservative (and Christian) view of the United States.

The irony of Donald Trump and Republicans demonising the F.B.I. is that over the course of its century-plus existence, the bureau has actually stood as one of America’s cultural bulwarks protecting the nation from “radicals” and “subversives” who sought to diversify the United States beyond its traditional white, male, Christian power structure.

Hoover seemed to fight his entire life to preserve the unique “mom, baseball and apple pie” nostalgia that would crystallise around the “Leave It to Beaver” idyll of the 1950s.

Given such history, it seems that the president has no one to blame but himself for the fact that today he and his supporters are in such heated conflict with the F.B.I.

Beyond an attack at the F.B.I.’s Cincinnati office earlier this month, which was carried out by a supporter of Trump who was also present at the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, armed Trump supporters have also protested outside of an F.B.I. field office in Phoenix.

These were his people — and he’s the one whose suspicious behavior keeps attracting the bureau’s attention. By at least one measure, the bureau still remains the least “woke” corps of federal agents: It now stands as the last and only one of the top dozen federal law enforcement agencies — among them Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Border Patrol, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Secret Service and the Park Police — that has never had a woman or person of color lead the agency.

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