Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said during his 2024 presidential announcement that he would remove FBI Director Chris Wray if he were elected president.
During his presidential announcement on Twitter Spaces, DeSantis was asked how he’d address growing concerns over misconduct and misuse of resources at the FBI, which is a primary subject of the House Republicans’ ongoing investigation into the weaponization of the federal government.
Asked if he would keep Wray, who began his tenure as FBI chief under President Donald Trump, DeSantis said he would not.
“No, I would not keep Chris Wray as director of the FBI,” he replied quickly. “There’ll be a new one on day one.”
“The DOJ [Department of Justice] and FBI have lost their way,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis discussed the need for a strong attorney general, the official in charge of most domestic federal law enforcement activities.
“In terms of an attorney general, you need someone that’s got a really strong backbone,” he said. “You need somebody that knows you’re going in there and you’re taking care of business. The Washington Post is not gonna like you. New York Times is not gonna like you. You’re gonna get attacked by CNN, and you got to wear that as a badge of honor. You can’t try to please polite society, because otherwise you’ll just get captured by the institution itself.”
DeSantis agreed with other Republicans that the agency had been “weaponized against Americans who think like me and you. And I think they’ve become very partisan.”
DeSantis’ comments come after the most recent FBI whistleblower report claimed that the agency had become “enveloped in politicization,” with charges that it had engaged in “serious abuses” of power.
FBI, DOJ Are ‘Not Independent’
Part of the reason for the increased politicization, DeSantis said, is that presidents have long listened to the “canard” that the FBI and DOJ are “independent” entities.
Rather, DeSantis said, they are executive branch bodies ruled by the president.
“They are not independent agencies. They are part of the executive branch, they answer to the elected president of the United States. So as president, you have a responsibility to be involved in holding those agencies accountable, clearing out people who are not doing their job and making sure that they’re doing the people’s business and they’re not abusing their authority.”
DeSantis gave an example: if the FBI or DOJ tried to collude with tech companies to censor stories or information under his watch, DeSantis said, he would clean house: “everybody involved with that would be fired immediately.
“Right now I think those agencies have been able to go without any real accountability,” he said. “And so guess what, when there’s no accountability, the bad behavior is going to continue.”
Among other discoveries in their investigations into the FBI, Republicans uncovered charges that the agency has been fabricating and manipulating statistics to create the impression of an increase in the number of domestic violent extremism incidents (DVEs), labeling some cases as DVEs where the basis for the claim was tenuous.
Other whistleblower allegations claim that the bureau created a “threat tag” to target pro-life individuals and organizations in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned federal protections to abortion access.
In September 2022, the FBI raided the home of Matthew Houck, a pro-life Catholic, for having obstructed access to an abortion provider.
Still, other whistleblower claims backed by leaked documents reveal that the FBI has also targeted so-called “radical-traditionalist Catholics,” dubbing them “RTCs.” The leaked documents accused traditional and Latin Mass Catholic communities of being a harbor for “white supremacism” and indicated that the FBI intended to place informants in those churches.
In 2021, a required public audit found the FBI had abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to carry out more than 3.3 million illegal queries of American citizens that year.
DeSantis’ openness to remove Wray comes after Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) introduced an impeachment resolution against the FBI chief, accusing him of using “Soviet-style tactics” to target normal Americans who disagreed with President Joe Biden’s policies.
Some Republicans, including Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) have told the Epoch Times that they would support such a measure.
Wray’s predecessor, James Comey, was removed by Trump from the office in 2017.