FBI Reassigns Its Top Lawyer, James Baker

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The FBI’s top lawyer, James Baker, a close colleague of former director James Comey, is being reassigned, reports the Washington Post. It is one of the first moves by new director Christopher Wray to assemble his own team of senior advisers as he tries to fend off accusations of politicization within the bureau. Baker told colleagues he will be taking on other duties at the FBI. He had been caught up in a strange interagency dispute that led to a leak probe and attracted the attention of Congress, but people familiar with the matter said the probe had ended with a decision not to charge anyone. Baker, one of the most trusted, longest-serving national security officials in the government, has served as the head of the FBI’s Office of General Counsel for several years, playing a key role in the agency’s handling of major cases and policy debates, including the FBI’s unsuccessful battle with Apple over the growing use of encryption in cellphones.

In recent days, conservatives have intensified their calls for a housecleaning of some kind at the senior levels of the FBI. Since Wray became director in August, Baker has expected the new boss would pick someone new for his position. Baker and Comey had been colleagues at the Justice Department and at Bridgewater Associates, an investment management firm. Baker was caught up in what law enforcement officials considered a particularly frustrating probe of a leak involving the FBI, the National Security Agency and stories that appeared a year ago involving surveillance techniques for an email provider. Some NSA officials were concerned that too much had been revealed about a classified program in an effort to correct a prior report. “Jim was distressed about it but was confident he hadn’t leaked anything’’ and would be cleared, one official said.

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