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The Briefing: Trump honors law enforcement – after dishonoring the FBI

WASHINGTON –  If you heard President Trump's speech Tuesday at the the 37th annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service – and only that speech – you might think he is a hard-nosed law-and-order type.

"We stand with our police and we stand with you 100 percent," he said. "And I think we’ve shown that."

But the president hasn't shown that kind of respect for the nation's top cops: the men and women of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FBI's "reputation is in Tatters – worst in History!" he tweeted on Dec. 23.

"FBI TAINTED," he tweeted three days later.

And so on.

We know why the president is doing this. The FBI, under the purview of special counsel Robert Mueller, is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. That investigation has already produced 22 guilty pleas and indictments, while revealing how Russian trolls exploited social media to boost Trump and sow discord – even in Buffalo.

So Trump has been taking to Twitter every once in a while to disparage the nation's G-men, just as he disparages the press, and for the same reason: to turn the public against an institution that threatens to hold him accountable.

There's some evidence that Trump's tactics are working: The percentage of Americans who said the FBI is biased against the Trump administration rose eight points between February and April.

Trump does this, though, at a terrible price: the reputation of the agency that investigates many of the nation's most complicated and important criminal cases.

What kind of cases? Oh, the case against the Kingsmen motorcyle gang that's bringing fresh horrors to a Buffalo courtroom all the time these days, and the arrest of the alleged "Golden State killer" after 40 years, and the foiling of dozens of terror plots over the past 17 years.

That's the kind of work the vast majority of the FBI's 35,000 special agents and support professionals do: work that aims to protect the public, work that has nothing to do with Trump or Russia, but that can save lives.

Now that's not to say that the FBI is perfect.

"Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter," Trump tweeted on Feb. 17, and he's right about that.

Beyond that, FBI agents (and furtive lovers) Peter Strzok and Lisa Page did the agency no good by bashing Trump via text message. Former deputy director Andrew McCabe damaged the agency by violating its media policy.  And former FBI director James Comey – Trump's greatest Twitter nemesis – isn't exactly burnishing anyone's reputation with his cash-gobbling book tour.

But those instances are outliers in an investigative agency with a strong track record of fighting crime.

Every day, all across America, FBI agents are digging deep into government corruption, like they did in New York in the case that ended in the conviction of Joseph Percoco, formerly a top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Every day they's investigating organized crime, conducting probes like the ones that essentially killed the Mafia in Western New York.

And every day, FBI agents fight the spread of illegal drugs, taking part in sprawling investigations like one that resulted in 124 arrests in Buffalo last year.

And so on.

And while you never hear much about it, 66 FBI agents and other employees have died in the line of duty over the agency's 100-year history. They're memorialized on the FBI's "Wall of Honor," and some of the stories told there sound a lot like the stories told at Tuesday's memorial service for fallen police officers.

For example, FBI special agent Samuel Hicks was gunned down near Pittsburgh in 2008 while raiding the home of a suspected cocaine dealer.

In 2013, special agents Christopher Lorek and Stephen Shaw died in an accident off the coast of Virginia during a hostage rescue training exercise.

And this March 22, Melissa S. Morrow became the eighth agent to die as a result of an ailment tied to the work the FBI did amid the toxic smoke, dust and ruins of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. She had a brain tumor, while others have died of leukemia, pancreatic cancer or multiple myeloma.

Trump didn't take to Twitter to memorialize Morrow, but her colleagues in the FBI's Kansas City office did. And not surprisingly, they struck a very different tone than the president usually does.

"Know that strength & courage come in many forms; most give some, some gave all," they tweeted. "#SAMorrow will be remembered most as a warrior. She will forever be considered a hero."

Happening today

President Trump welcomes Uzbekistani President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to the White House. … The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on data privacy in the wake of privacy breaches at Facebook. … The Hill newspaper holds a discussion on "NAFTA and North American Competitiveness: A U.S.-Canada Conversation."… The International Spy Museum holds a forum with former CIA Director John Brennan. ... Politics and Prose Bookstore holds a book discussion on "The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies," with author and former CIA director Michael Hayden.

Good reads

The New York Times says there's nothing new in North Korea threatening to cancel its summit with President Trump. ... Politico interviews Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who sounds like he's ready to go on the warpath against special counsel Robert Mueller. ... The Washington Post's Dana Milbank says Democrats are coming up lacking in their search for big ideas. ... The National Review looks at the new cold war between the United States and China. ... And the Atlantic examines the birth of a "new American aristocracy."

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