Over the past few weeks, former FBI director James Comey's Twitter feed has been filled with inspirational quotations, Bible verses and nature photographs – many of them timed around remarks made by the president who fired him.
On Nov. 11, he quoted a sermon from the late English Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon about the difference between a truth and a lie, hours after President Donald Trump called Comey a proven "liar" and "leaker." Then on Nov. 25, about a half-hour after Trump attacked CNN International, Comey tweeted a quote from Thomas Jefferson: "Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost."
Described as a subtle Trump troll, most of Comey's tweets have quoted historical leaders and thinkers. But on Sunday, Comey took a different approach: quoting himself.
The move came after Trump launched into a tweetstorm early Sunday morning, slamming the FBI, calling it "Tainted (no, very dishonest?)" and saying "its reputation is in Tatters."
Hours later, Comey quoted his own words from his June 8 testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
"I want the American people to know this truth: The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. And the FBI is, and always will be, independent," Comey tweeted, along with a collage of photographs of various FBI teams.
The president began his commentary on Saturday, a day after dismissed national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his interactions with a Russian official. Trump drew controversy with his tweet saying part of the rationale for firing Flynn was that he had lied to the FBI. The Post reported Saturday that Trump attorney John Dowd had drafted the president's tweet, according to two people familiar with the message. Dowd confirmed that Sunday.
Trump also latched onto news that Peter Strzok – the former top FBI official assigned to special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election – was taken off that job this summer after his bosses discovered that he and another member of Mueller's team had exchanged politically charged texts disparaging Trump and supporting Democrat Hillary Clinton.
And early Sunday, Trump reiterated his denial that he asked Comey, then-FBI Director, to halt an investigation into Flynn.
Former attorney general Eric Holder, former acting attorney general Sally Yates, and others jumped to the FBI's defense as well.
"The FBI is in 'tatters'? No. The only thing in tatters is the President's respect for the rule of law," said Yates, who has been a frequent recent critic of Trump on Twitter. "The dedicated men and women of the FBI deserve better."
Trump fired Yates in January for refusing to defend his ban on travel from six majority-Muslim countries. In May, Yates testified that she expected White House officials to "take action" on her January warning that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn could be blackmailed by Russia.
Holder, who served as attorney general under the Obama administration, also fired back at Trump, saying, "You'll find integrity and honesty at FBI headquarters and not at 1600 Penn Ave right now."
The president of FBI Agents Association, an advocacy group that claims more than 14,000 active and former FBI Special Agents as members, released a statement on Twitter Sunday evening.
"Every day, FBI Special Agents put their lives on the line to protect the American public from national security and criminal threats," the group's president, Thomas O'Connor, wrote in the statement. "Agents perform these duties with unwavering integrity and professionalism and a focus on complying with the law and the Constitution."
"This is why the FBI continues to be the premier law enforcement agency in the world," the statement continued. "FBI Agents are dedicated to their mission; suggesting otherwise is simply false."