FBI director Christopher Wray speaks candidly on Laken Riley’s death, threats to democracy, civil rights


Washington — FBI Director Christopher Wray offered unusually expansive comments Tuesday on recent high-profile crimes and their intersection with the work of the FBI. 

He talked about how FBI agents are working with law enforcement to “help achieve justice” in the case of murdered University of Georgia nursing student Laken Riley, who investigators say was killed by a Venezuelan migrant in the U.S. illegally, according to Wray. 

“I want to tell you how heartbroken I am — not just for the family, friends, classmates, and staff who are grieving Laken’s loss,” Wray told a group gathered at the University of Georgia on Tuesday in his first public comments on the tragedy. “I’m saddened to see that sense of peace shattered by Laken’s murder and the subsequent arrest of a Venezuelan national who’d illegally entered the country in 2022.” 

He promised the FBI is doing “everything [it] can to help achieve justice for Laken,” who was killed while she was jogging.  

The remarks from the FBI director were notable, since he rarely speaks publicly about ongoing criminal cases in which the bureau is involved. 

He also spoke extensively about a group of former law enforcement officers who dubbed themselves “the Goon Squad” and are being sentenced this week, after admitting they had tortured two Black men last year. One of the men, Hunter Eldward, was sentenced to more than 20 years in prison on Tuesday. He admitted that he shoved a firearm in the mouth of one of the men as part of a mock execution, which was just one component of the racist attacks. 

“Without a warrant or any exigent circumstances, the six of them kicked in the door of a home where two Black men were staying and subjected them to an hour and a half of pure hell,” Wray said Tuesday as part of his speech focused on government accountability. “Who do you call when the police are the ones terrorizing you? No human being should ever be subjected to the torture, the trauma, the horrific acts of violence carried out by those individuals.” 

All six men will be sentenced by the end of the week. In a separate statement, Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged, “The Justice Department will hold accountable officers who violate constitutional rights, and in so doing, betray the public trust.”

The FBI director has been vocal in recent months about the dangers Americans face in a heightened threat landscape that includes domestic threats like ransomware attacks and vulnerabilities at the southern border, as well as international risks posed by Chinese cyberattacks and the growing conflict in the Middle East. 

Tuesday’s comments, however, treaded into the political sphere as Wray warned against the politicization of the FBI and democratic institutions. 

“Whether it’s a trial, a Supreme Court case, even an election — people’s standard these days for judging whether something was fair or objective is whether they like the result — whether their side won or lost,” he said. 

FBI agents have been intricately involved in various high-profile, politically charged investigations in recent years, including two federal probes into former President Donald Trump’s conduct, one into classified documents that led the FBI to execute a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in 2022. They also investigated President Joe Biden’s handling of classified records and his son Hunter’s business dealings. 

Hunter Biden has been charged in two jurisdictions for tax and gun crimes and pleaded not guilty. 

Trump – who has also pleaded not guilty to the charges against him — has blasted the Justice Department’s dual investigations as a politically motivated attempt to harm him during an election year. 

Without calling out any specific individuals by name, the FBI director warned Tuesday that “baseless attacks” on the bureau’s work “strike at the heart of the rule of law.”

“It’s bad enough when folks denounce a specific case or investigation as tainted or unfair just because their side lost,” he said, “But it gets exponentially worse when that attack goes from this case or that, to saying the whole institution is corrupt because they didn’t like a particular outcome.” 

The most partisan attacks and “shrill” accusations, Wray argued, are “coming from the most politicized speakers.” 

And when pressed on recent cuts to the FBI’s budget pushed by congressional Republicans, Wray said his focus is on reasoning with Congress to make sure lawmakers don’t “double down” on their belt-tightening. 



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