FBI Director Chris Wray sent a video message to agents Thursday evening offering his support, which has caused about 800,000 federal workers to miss two paychecks. The video was a strong rebuke of the shutdown, and an encouragement to agents to keep going even as they are furloughed or working without pay.
"Making some people stay home when they don't want to, and making others show up without pay–it's mind-boggling, it's short-sighted, and it's unfair," Wray said in the video. "It takes a lot to get me angry, but I'm about as angry as I've been in a long, long time."
Wray explained that FBI leadership has not been making the case to reopen the government in the press to avoid becoming embroiled in ongoing political warfare between President Trump and congressional Democrats, who are at a standstill over funding for a border wall. Wray also alluded to recent FBI controversies that cast the bureau in a negative light, and subsequent criticism, some of which has come from the president.
"You know better than most that we've been thrust into the political spotlight more than we would have liked over the past few years. And the last thing this organization needs now is its leadership to wade into the middle of a full-on political dispute," he said. "In this polarized environment, even seemingly straightforward statements can be hijacked by one side or the other."
Wray added that FBI leadership had tried on behalf of the unpaid agents to make a "one-time payment to employees" to help ease the effects of the shutdown. However, despite a "whole bunch of folks work(ing) like crazy to make this happen," the plan was stymied by unforeseen obstacles.
"In spite of it all, you're still doing what the American people need you to do. And we're going to keep doing what the American people need us to do, come hell or high water. Because at the end of the day, that is who we do the work for. And we can't – we won't – let the American people down," Wray said.
"And in this unprecedented and difficult time, there's one thing I'm absolutely sure of: We will get through this, together, just as we've always done," he finished.