White House again criticizes FBI director for voting remarks

FBI Director Christopher Wray was the target of White House criticism for the second time in a week Friday as Chief of Staff Mark Meadows criticized remarks he made a day earlier to Congress about voter fraud

WASHINGTON — FBI Director Christopher Wray was the target of White House criticism for the second time in a week Friday as Chief of Staff Mark Meadows chided him over remarks made a day earlier to Congress about voter fraud.

Meadows suggested in an interview with CBS that Wray was ill-informed when he told the Senate that there has not been any significant coordinated national voter fraud.

Meadows was critical in his CBS interview of the director, tying his remarks on voter fraud to a probe of the FBI’s handling of Russian links to the Trump campaign. The president and his allies have denounced the investigation, which a watchdog has said was flawed but legitimate overall.

“Well, with all due respect to Director Wray, he has a hard time finding e-mails in his own FBI, let alone figuring out whether there is any kind of voter fraud.”

He then suggested that Wray needed more information about the allegations of voter fraud that have surfaced in several places.

“Perhaps he needs to get involved on the ground and then he would change his testimony on Capitol Hill,” Meadows said.

It was unusually pointed criticism of an FBI director, especially one who was appointed by Trump.

In his testimony to the Senate Homeland Security committee on Thursday, Wray said the FBI takes “all election-related threats seriously,” including voter fraud or voter suppression.

But in response to a question from Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, the FBI director said the agency has not seen evidence of widespread voter fraud, at least not to date.

“Now, we have not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it’s by mail or otherwise,” he said. “We have seen voter fraud at the local level from time to time.”

It was the kind of nuanced answer that riled Trump last week when Wray was asked at a House hearing by lawmakers

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Top White House aide’s interview goes haywire over Trump coronavirus remarks

An interview with top White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Sunday went off the rails after he was pressed about revelations last week that President Donald Trump intentionally downplayed coronavirus in the early months of the pandemic.

Clashing with host Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Navarro’s interview cut out as the two men began shouting over one another.

Tapper confronted Navarro about Trump’s tape-recorded comments in journalist Bob Woodward’s new book, “Rage,” set to be released this week. In it, Trump told Woodward in a Feb. 7 phone call that coronavirus “is deadly stuff” and worse than the flu. After that conversation, though, Trump publicly downplayed the virus and repeatedly compared it to the flu.

“In February nobody knew,” Navarro said of the novel coronavirus’ potential impact, despite Trump’s comments to Woodward, which were taped. “No, nobody knew. Not the president, not you, not Nancy Pelosi, not Bill de Blasio.”

Navarro then accused Tapper of “cherry-picking” comments the president made. Tapper responded by saying that Trump “was not honest with the American people” about the virus’ impact.

“You’re not honest with the American people,” Navarro said. “CNN is not honest with the American people.”

Navarro also pointed to Trump’s decision to bar some travelers from China in late January, a step he said proved the president viewed the virus as “a serious, serious matter.”

Navarro described the White House strategy from this time as “hope for the best, prepare for the worst, stay calm and begin to attack” the virus. He added that he authored a memo on Feb. 9, two days after Trump’s phone call with Woodward, outlining the need for personal protective equipment and therapeutics.

The Woodward revelations have reverberated in Washington, D.C., and on the campaign trail in recent days. Faced with the conflicting statements and recorded remarks in which Trump said he intentionally downplayed the virus publicly, the president has said doing so was necessary to maintain “calm” and that he didn’t want people to “panic,” insisting Thursday he “didn’t lie” to the American public.

“What I said is we have to be calm,” he said of painting a rosier picture than the reality. “We can’t be panicked.”

Speaking to reporters at the White House then, Trump sidestepped a question on why he was telling the public the virus was “like a flu” when he knew earlier it was much more lethal.

“What I went out and said is very simple: I want to show a level of confidence, strength as a leader,” Trump said.

Trump told Woodward in that February call that he knew the virus was airborne, which was not widely known to the public at the time. In March, he told Woodward: “I wanted to always play it down.”

“I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic,” Trump said in a recorded March 19 call with Woodward.

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