FBI Director Christopher Wray rejected the notion that the bureau has suffered damage to its reputation or morale after two years of the special counsel's Russia investigation, amid new calls from President Donald Trump to investigate "dirty cops" he accuses of illegally starting the probe.
"I would tell you that rumors about damage to our morale or brand are grievously overstated," Wray told the Council on Foreign Relations on Friday, in his first set of public remarks since the report's release. "We’re not focused on the rhetoric, we're focused on the work, who we do it with and who we do it for."
Wray's answer was in response to a question from an audience member asking whether the president using labels like 'dirty cops' to describe FBI officials has damaged the bureau.
"The Mueller Report, despite being written by Angry Democrats and Trump Haters, and with unlimited money behind it ($35,000,000), didn’t lay a glove on me," Trump tweeted Tuesday. "All of the Crimes were committed by Crooked Hillary, the Dems, the DNC and Dirty Cops - and we caught them in the act!"
As Trump has pushed for further scrutiny of the origins of the investigation, his administration has spent much of the week pushing back on reports that it's not doing enough to counter potential future meddling attempts by Russia.
Just this week, Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor downplayed Russia's 2016 interference saying it amounted to "a couple of Facebook ads" and arguing Mueller's investigation was "way more harmful" to the U.S.
Wray, on the other hand, told the audience that Russia still poses a "very significant counterintelligence threat" that U.S. intelligence is working on a daily basis to prepare to counter leading up to the 2020 presidential election.
"We recognize that our adversaries are going to keep adapting and upping their game," Wray said.
Wray also sought to make clear that Russian intelligence officials previously indicted by Mueller but living abroad should not rest easy despite his investigation being wrapped up.
"We find that a lot of these folks like to be able to travel and once they’ve been indicted their travel options get decidedly smaller," Wray said. "And the FBI has a long memory and a broad reach – and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of these people in orange jumpsuits one day."
Despite with the recent focus on Russia, Wray also sought to highlight what he described as similarly egregious behavior by China in acts of "economic espionage."
The Department of Justice has recently taken a more heavy-handed approach in dealing with Chinese hackers. Earlier this week, the department charged an American engineer and a Chinese businessman in a 14-count indictment, accusing them of stealing General Electric secrets and spying on the company.
"To put it plainly, China seems willing to steal it's way up the economic ladder," Wray said.