But the FBI director did not have to comment about the Trump case to rebut the planted evidence fib. He could have said something like:
I will not address the details of this investigation or any other. But I will defend the men and women of the FBI against disgraceful lies. Everyone in this great organization took an oath as I did to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. We uphold the law, always and everywhere. That ethos is in the marrow of our bones. The allegation that FBI special agents planted evidence at this search or any search is dishonest and contemptible.
I spent most of my professional career in federal law enforcement, including two stints at the FBI. Am I biased in its favor? Absolutely. But I believe to my core that it is inconceivable the FBI would have planted evidence at Mar-a-Lago. That is not the way it operates, that is not the FBI I know and admire, and it did not happen. How certain am I? Pretty damn certain. Might I be wrong? I often am, but not on this.
What harms do these lies cause? These lies undermine the work of the FBI, the morale of the professionals at the FBI and the confidence of citizens in the remarkably important mission of the FBI. Remember, it was only 18 months ago that two FBI special agents in Miami were shot and killed in the line of duty. You may have forgotten that. I assure you that their colleagues in Miami and around the world have not.
Is there any value to Wray categorically denying the planted evidence accusation? At the very least, it would support the Miami agents who executed the search, 13,000 other FBI special agents and the remaining 24,000 professionals who work for the FBI in hundreds of offices, small and large. Is it useful to anyone else? Yes. It is the type of thing that the press and the public should hear, too, because agents did not plant evidence.
Would it make a difference? To Trump supporters and enablers, that seems unlikely. To the folks who work for the FBI? Absolutely. They know their leader cannot change the world, just as they know that their work will be disparaged by dark forces that do not want them to succeed. But they do expect Wray to defend them and their FBI against loathsome lies. That is not an unreasonable expectation.
The Irish satirist Jonathan Swift noted that falsehood flies and truth comes limping after it … Swift died in 1745, so he was likely not writing about Donald Trump. We know this maxim in other forms, including that a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on.
Chris Wray had a chance to begin to chase down an outrageous lie. He may not have caught it and he certainly would not have changed the hearts and minds of some, but he would have sent a clear message to the men and women of the FBI that he has their back. He needs to get his boots on.