QUANTICO, Va. (AP) — Taking aim at the credibility of the FBI, President Donald Trump unleashed a blistering attack on the bureau's leadership even as he praised state and local police officers as a bulwark against rising violence and crime.
Trump denounced the bureau for its handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, calling it "really disgraceful" and continuing his questioning of his country's intelligence and law enforcement institutions as no president before.
"It's a shame what's happened with the FBI," the president said. "We're going to rebuild the FBI, it'll be bigger and better than ever, but it is very sad when you look at those documents, and how they've done that is really, really disgraceful, and you have a lot of very angry people that are seeing it."
The president's broadside appeared to reflect his anger over revelations that senior FBI officials exchanged anti-Trump and pro-Hillary Clinton text messages while working on last year's Clinton probe and during special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into whether Trump associates colluded with Russian officials in the 2016 election.
Trump laced into the bureau as he was departing for its training academy in Virginia, where he lavished praise on graduates of a weeks-long FBI National Academy program for law enforcement leaders from around the country.
He praised the graduates, who were trained on FBI standards, touting their accomplishments and pledging his unwavering support. Trump told law enforcement leaders he is "more loyal than anyone else could be" to police.
"Anti-police sentiment is wrong and it's dangerous," he added. "Anyone who kills a police officer should get the death penalty."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose has faced Trump's wrath after recusing himself from the Russia probe, distanced himself from Trump's criticism of the bureau, saying he does not share a view that the FBI "is not functioning at a high level all over the country." He praised the bureau's crime-fighting efforts and stopped short of saying he agreed with Trump's assessment that the reputation of the agency is "in tatters."
With the attack, the White House joined a growing movement among the conservative media and some Republicans to question the integrity of Mueller's investigation.
Meanwhile, Trump wouldn't say whether he is considering a pardon for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
On Friday, Trump told reporters, "I don't want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet." Trump spoke as he left the White House for a speech at the FBI training academy in Quantico, Va.
Flynn is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into potential collusion between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.
Trump avoided a reporter's question about when he knew that Flynn had made false statements to the FBI about his discussion of U.S. sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
After the president's comments, White House lawyer Ty Cobb said, "There is no consideration at the White House of any pardon for Michael Flynn."
Flynn attorney Robert Kelner did not respond to a request for comment.