White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Friday that FBI Director James Comey wasn’t invited to participate in the White House Summit to Counter Violent Extremism because his boss Eric Holder was already attending and that it could cause a perception problem.
“We wanted to make sure that there wasn’t a perception that this conference was overly focused on law enforcement tactics. Certainly law enforcement is a very important role to play. That’s why we had the nation’s top law enforcement official in attendance.
That’s why we had police chiefs and other law enforcement officials from communities across the country in attendance, but the focus here is on the broader set of tools that are available to communities all across the country to protect vulnerable people who could be susceptible to violent extremist ideology that’s propagated on social media.
The nation’s top law enforcement official Attorney General Eric Holder attended, we also had local enforcement officials from across the country who could talk about their own experience in working with community leaders to counter violent extremism in their communities.”
ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl:
“So in terms of countering violent extremism, is it the FBI director, the head of the agency that is on the front line of doing exactly that? You’re having a summit, a three-day meeting, on countering violent extremism, and you don’t invite the lead official in charge of countering violent extremism?”
Earnst: “That’s right. We just invited his boss.”
Karl: “And then so you invite the attorney general. You don’t have the FBI director, but you did have the head of the Russian security service there. How does that look?”
Earnst: “Hopefully, he was listening carefully when the president was talking about the importance of governments respecting and protecting universal human rights.”
Karl: “You don’t think that sends a strange message to have the head of the Russian FSB, the successor to the KGB at this meeting and not the FBI director?”
Earnst: “To be clear about the Russian official who attended. The United States issued an invitation to the country, and Russia, in this case, made the decision about which official from their government would represent them. So it wasn’t as if there was an invitation that was sent specifically to this official. This is the official that the Russian government chose to represent them at the summit.”
Karl: “Was there any hesitation of having that official there from Russia, given that he is on the European Union’s sanctions list related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine?”
Earnst: “Not that I’m aware of.”
H/T: CNS News