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New Local FBI Head Plays Down National Controversies Like Clinton Emails, Russia Investigation

FBI Pittsburgh
The FBI Pittsburgh Field Office moved to its East Carson Street location in late 2001.

The FBI has been embroiled in several controversies since the 2016 election, but the new head of the agency’s Pittsburgh office, Robert Jones, said the public shouldn’t focus on that.

Jones, who became the office’s special agent in charge (SAC) in June, addressed the issue in a meeting with reporters on Thursday.

“[FBI] director [Christopher Wray] asks all the SACs, when they come out and interact with the media,” Jones said, “to remind everybody that 99.9 percent of our cases have nothing to do with Clinton emails, or [the] Russia investigation, or meddling in elections.”

Jones, a native of Washington County, said he wouldn’t comment on the Trump Administration. But he said that with all the national drama, much of the work the bureau does gets less recognition than in the past.

Jones reiterated that the FBI continues to arrest drug dealers, rescue kidnap victims and pursue other important cases.

In regard to drug trafficking, he said, while the opioid epidemic continues to ravage communities in western Pennsylvania, there’s also been a rise in the use of cocaine, methamphetamine and synthetic drugs.

Jones said he doesn’t know the cause, but he noted the FBI and other agencies have dedicated significant resources to fighting the opioid crisis in recent years.

“Maybe we’re knocking the opioids down a little bit [and] that is causing people to turn to different narcotics like cocaine or methamphetamine,” Jones said.

Jones added that the use of these drugs hasn’t reached epidemic-level proportions, though he said his office is focused on staying ahead of trends to contain the problem.

Jones said he'll continue to expand the office's cyber capabilities. He noted many narcotics are sold in secret online networks.

An-Li Herring is a reporter for 90.5 WESA, with a focus on economic policy, local government, and the courts. She previously interned for NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg in Washington, DC, and the investigations team at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A Pittsburgh native, An-Li completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan and earned her law degree from Stanford University. She can be reached at aherring@wesa.fm.