The director of the FBI, Christopher A. Wray, criticized the impact of the closure of the government on the employees of the office in a video message published amid growing anxiety among thousands of agents and other staff who has spent more than a month working without pay.
In the unusual video message, Wray also offered an apparent apology for why the top FBI officials were not publicly defending their employees, suggesting that they had not spoken out because of repeated political criticism of the president's office. Trump and others in recent years.
"You know better than most that we have been pushed into the political focus more than we would have liked in recent years," Wray said in the message, which was addressed to FBI staff. "And the last thing this organization needs now is its leadership to get in the middle of a total political dispute."
Wray's comments came when federal law enforcement officials throughout the government He expressed his anger at the lack of paychecks during the closure and the concern that the situation was hampering his work. The Justice Department said that most of its employees had to continue working during the closure, including nearly 90 percent of the 35,000 people working for the FBI. These workers did not receive paychecks, although government officials said they would receive a late payment when the closure ended.
Wray used his message to highlight the financial tensions faced by office employees who still need money for rent and purchase. Some employees in the FBI field offices have discussed the creation of food banks, while other law enforcement officials, along with unpaid workers throughout the government, weighed in leaving the government and struggled with the form of paying the next bills in the midst of uncertainty.
"Making some people stay at home when they do not want it, and making others show up without paying, is amazing, it's short-sighted and it's not fair," Wray said. "It's hard for me to get angry, but I'm as angry as I've been in a long, long time."
Law enforcement officials have also he described the effects on his work, including the inability to approve travel or cash, the lack of money for informants and no cash for some criminal investigations.
Earlier in the week, the FBI Agents Association published a report arguing that the closure was holding back the ability of agents to "act [their] Obligations and necessary funds for operations and investigations ".
Thomas O'Connor, president of the association, said in a statement that Wray's video message "articulated clearly the challenges facing" the FBI employees.
"As we have said, the director and the FBI leadership are doing everything possible to finance FBI operations with increasingly limited resources," said O & # 39; Connor.
The leaders of Congress and Trump reached a tentative agreement to temporarily reopen the government on Friday.
Wray, the head of the nation's leading law enforcement agency, acknowledged that "there are some doubts about why you have not seen the FBI leaders in the press, fighting for the good fight in the last five weeks."
Wray said FBI officials were waving privately, not publicly, and linked that decision to the political controversies that have recently entangled the office.
Trump, who chose Wray to head the bureau after firing former director James B. Comey, has repeatedly criticized the FBI and the Justice Department for the ongoing Russian investigation and other issues. Their conservative allies have similarly criticized these law enforcement agencies. Before Trump took office, Comey held a controversial press conference in 2016 to announce that he would not recommend charges against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server as a secretary of state.
In his message about the closure, Wray argued that "there are real costs" for FBI officials to express themselves in the media, adding: "In this polarized environment, even seemingly direct statements can be hijacked by one or the other. side".
Wray told employees that FBI officials had been "actively advocating" behind the scenes, including finding a way to make a one-time payment to many failed employees. He thanked the employees who shared the work duties and organized ways to donate food and other goods while they continued to work.
"In spite of everything, you are still doing what the American people need you to do," he said.