How have FBI staff fared since James Comey was fired as director last year? The Trump administration doesn’t want the public to know.
A new lawsuit is seeking to force the administration to release the results of the FBI’s February-March 2018 “climate survey,” an anonymous annual review that takes the temperature of worker morale at the agency.
Ben Wittes and Scott Anderson, Brookings Institution fellows and the editors of Lawfare, filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the document in April. (Wittes also is a close personal friend of Comey). On Friday, with the FBI having failed to produce the survey or give justification for the delay within the time period required by FOIA, Wittes and Anderson sued in federal court in Washington D.C.
The suit argues that the agency had released the climate surveys every year since 2013, and noted that the public has a high level of interest in how the chaos of the last year has affected the experience of the FBI’s rank and file. The bureau’s advocates have argued that the frequent attacks on the FBI from Trump and his allies risk undermining employee morale.
“The FBI faced many challenges over the past year, following President Trump’s decision to fire Director Comey,” it reads. “The President and his allies have accused specific FBI personnel of skewing investigative results, abusing surveillance authorities, and engaging in a vendetta against the President. The President has also repeatedly attacked the integrity of the FBI and its agents on Twitter.”
The lawsuit additionally argues that the public deserves to see the documents because the Trump administration’s past claims about FBI morale under Comey were disproven by the release of the 2017 climate survey.
Wittes and Anderson are represented by the Protect Democracy Project, a non-profit founded by former White House and administration lawyers.
Read the full complaint below: