What The Mood Is Like At The FBI Former FBI agent Josh Campbell talks to NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro about how White House criticism of the intelligence community is affecting law enforcement and public safety.
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What The Mood Is Like At The FBI

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What The Mood Is Like At The FBI

What The Mood Is Like At The FBI

What The Mood Is Like At The FBI

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Former FBI agent Josh Campbell talks to NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro about how White House criticism of the intelligence community is affecting law enforcement and public safety.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

We've been talking today about the impeachment inquiry. But there's so much more news that keeps unfolding in this story. If you were watching the president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani speaking to Fox News' Laura Ingraham earlier this week, you heard him say this.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE INGRAHAM ANGLE")

RUDY GIULIANI: If Biden gets away with the 1.5 million, then we don't have justice in America. We just don't. And we've lost the FBI.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Giuliani is echoing what the president has repeatedly said himself, accusing former FBI Director James Comey of being corrupt and dismissing the FBI as conclusions on Russian interference in the 2016 election. So what's the net effect of the White House making accusations like this? Joining us now is Josh Campbell. He's a former FBI agent and the author of "Crossfire Hurricane: Inside Donald Trump's War On The FBI." Thanks so much for joining us.

JOSH CAMPBELL: Hi, Lulu - great to be with you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. The White House confirmed this week that it had moved the actual full transcript of President Trump's phone conversations with his Ukrainian counterpart to a secret server. How does that strike you?

CAMPBELL: Well, you know, it's interesting if you just step back, you know, at the 30,000-foot level because we are used to scandals in the era of Trump. But this past week, in particular, seemed like a torrent of scandals, you know, we were witnessing play out. And as you mentioned, that was one of them, this new revelation that information is reportedly being shielded probably to protect the president from embarrassment, which is an abuse of that system. You know, every intelligence community person knows that you don't classify something or sequester something purely for purposes of preventing embarrassment. But that appears what happened here.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The whistleblower is reported to be a CIA agent. And you're FBI. That's acknowledged. But what are your sources telling you about how the complaint was handled?

CAMPBELL: Well, it's interesting if you look at the process that is prescribed by law and that is when the inspector general determines that a whistleblower complaint meets a certain level of severity that has to get to the Congress. That is prescribed, again, in the law. The problem here is that it appears as of the executive branch was initially trying to obstruct that and raised a lot of eyebrows with the, you know, Justice Department involved, their role in it first going to them. And this is the Justice Department led by an attorney general who has raised a lot of questions about his independence, going back to the Mueller investigation, you know, characterizing that. Some would say mischaracterizing the early conclusions of the report. And so again, if you're the American public trying to, you know, stare at the facts and wonder if this Justice Department is actually independent and if things are actually operating above board. There's a pattern at least, you know, as of late, that says that this DOJ is more aligned with the White House than we've seen in years past.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Your job at the bureau involved conducting national security investigations. How do you think having a White House that is at such cross purposes with the FBI affects public safety?

CAMPBELL: Well, you know, I write about this in my book. And that is the theme - is looking at, what are the consequences? If you look back at the last three years - and what I did was chronicled these attacks on the FBI, on the Justice Department. I interviewed dozens of people inside and outside government to get their perspective. And there was this constant theme that, you know - that there's anger inside the intelligence community, inside the FBI with the constant political attacks on these agencies. That's not to say that they did everything perfect. In fact, in the book, I do criticize certain actions. I think it's important to be fair in criticism. But what is unprecedented is the level of attack on an institution for the sole purpose of undermining its investigations. You know, as I write in the book, you know, I don't believe President Trump comes to this as a civil libertarian or an ideologue, someone who is genuinely concerned about abuses by law enforcement. I think the campaign of attack was meant to shield him, to protect him and to try to tell the public - at least a certain segment of it - that he is a victim of out-of-control law enforcement.

The problem with that is we see that in politics all the time, you know, people trying to undermine their perceived enemies. The problem here is this is federal law enforcement. And they have to succeed. And my theme - and, you know, what I write about in the book is that, if this campaign of attack is successful, if people actually believe this nonsense - that the FBI is corrupt - that will impact public safety because loss of confidence in law enforcement is a very serious deal.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Have any of this week's revelations made you rethink the Mueller report?

CAMPBELL: Well, it has in the sense that I wonder, you know - you go back and look at that conversation that was just reported this past week in the Oval Office where the president allegedly told the Russian officials that their election interference was essentially no big deal because everybody does it, which - this came the day after the firing of the person who was leading the investigation into his campaign, the FBI director, my former boss. And so it's so striking that that would occur because not only did it undermine the men and women of the intelligence community, who just spent months trying to determine what the full effect was of Russian interference - but I believe that that was a green light to the Russians ahead looking into 2020 that the U.S. president at least - it does not concern him that they would continue these efforts. I believe that he was the beneficiary of their interference. I believe he is partly in office because of their efforts. And so, you know, if you're looking at this from a craven political standpoint, of course, he would, you know, not object - but obviously, when you look at how that impacts public safety and national security, a lot of questions there.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Josh Campbell is a former FBI agent. He joins us from NPR West. Thanks so much for speaking with us today.

CAMPBELL: Thank you, Lulu.

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