President TrumpDonald TrumpGOP grapples with chaotic Senate primary in Pennsylvania Trump social media startup receives commitment of billion from unidentified 'diverse group' of investors Iran thinks it has the upper hand in Vienna — here's why it doesn't MORE on Friday tore into the FBI just hours before speaking at the agency’s training academy.
“It’s a shame what's happened with the FBI. But we’re going to rebuild the FBI; it’ll be bigger and better than ever,” Trump told reporters.
The president doubled down on his criticism of the nation’s top law enforcement agency before leaving the White House for the FBI’s campus in Quantico, Va., where he spoke to law enforcement leaders graduating from a training program.
Trump said revelations about the FBI’s handling of the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRepublican Ohio Senate candidate slams JD Vance over previous Trump comments Budowsky: Why GOP donors flock to Manchin and Sinema Countering the ongoing Republican delusion MORE email investigation and text messages from a top agent that were critical of him were “really, really disgraceful.”
“You have a lot of very angry people who are seeing it,” the president said. "It's a very sad thing to watch, I will tell you that."
The president has long been suspicious of the FBI and intelligence agencies, but the timing of his criticism was remarkable.
Roughly an hour after Trump spoke at the White House, he appeared on stage at the academy with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPress: For Trump endorsement: The more sordid, the better Those predicting Facebook's demise are blowing smoke If bitcoin is 'digital gold,' it should be taxed like gold MORE at the graduation ceremony.
During the speech, the president cast himself as a defender of law enforcement and lauded the bravery of police officers and FBI agents.
“These are great, great people. These are really heroes for all of us,” he said.
“The president of the United States has your back 100 percent,” Trump added. “I will fight for you and I will never, ever let you down. Ever."
Trump’s comments come as special counsel Robert Mueller is working through his investigation into Russia’s election interference and whether the Trump campaign had any ties to it.
The president repeated his insistence his campaign staff had nothing to do with Russia’s election-related activities.
“Let’s put it this way: there is absolutely no collusion. That’s been proven,” Trump said.
"I didn't make a phone call to Russia," he added. "Even Democrats admit there was no collusion."
Trump did speak about his Thursday phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which Trump said he tried to persuade Putin to do more to counter North Korea.
Trump thanked Putin for praising the performance of the U.S. economy this year.
The president and his allies are increasingly questioning the FBI’s integrity as they attack the Russia probe.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have slammed former FBI Director James Comey for revising a draft document detailing the agency’s findings in the Clinton email probe in a way that appeared to lessen its severity.
They have also zeroed in on text messages sent by top FBI agent Peter Strzok, who was a senior official on the Clinton probe and the Russia investigation. He was reassigned from Mueller’s investigation after private texts were discovered of him criticizing Trump.
“The level of anger at what they've been witnessing with respect to the FBI is certainly very sad,” Trump said.
Strzok also sent text messages criticizing Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Abortion access for 65M women at stake Hospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan Sanders urges Biden to delay Medicare premium hike linked to Alzheimer's drug MORE (I-Vt.), former attorney general Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderWith extreme gerrymanders locking in, Biden needs to make democracy preservation job one The Memo: Democrats may rue pursuit of Bannon Ben Affleck, Tracee Ellis Ross join anti-gerrymandering fundraiser with Clinton, Holder MORE and Chelsea Clinton, among others.
Earlier Friday, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said on Fox News that “the president is absolutely supportive of and has full faith and confidence in the rank-and-file members of the DOJ and also the FBI" but is upset with its some of its leaders.
Trump spoke to state and local law enforcement officials graduating from a program that is designed to improve standards and cooperation with federal authorities.
Updated at 11:39 a.m.