Of all the names floated in the media as potential replacements for fired FBI Director James Comey, Christopher Wray’s was barely noticed. Yet early Wednesday, President Donald Trump revealed that he would nominate Wray for the vacant top job at the nation’s senior law enforcement agency. It should, perhaps, come as no surprise that the president conveyed his decision via Twitter. “I will be nominating Christopher A. Wray, a man of impeccable credentials, to be the new Director of the FBI. Details to follow.” The president wrote.
D.C.-based lawyer, Wray – currently in private practice – was a federal prosecutor who served as assistant attorney general from 2003 to 2005. In that capacity, Wray served under then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and his successor, Alberto Gonzales. He oversaw the federal government’s multi-agency Enron Task Force which the FBI describes as “the largest and most complex white-collar investigation in FBI history.”
Wray was also New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s personal lawyer and represented him in the 2013 ‘Bridgegate’ investigation. Christie was never charged with any wrongdoing related to that scandal.
A New York Times report describes Wray as “a safe, mainstream pick,” and quotes Alice Fisher – another FBI veteran who was interviewed for the job of agency chief – as saying:
Chris is a wonderful choice to lead the F.B.I. who cares deeply about the institution and already has strong relationships with the F.B.I His background at the helm of the criminal division offered an excellent experience working on national security, white-collar crime and a range of federal crimes.
The president’s decision has been the subject of much speculation since James Comey was abruptly fired on May 9. No recent FBI Director has been drawn from the political ranks and, until quite recently, former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman was thought to be one of the top candidates. At one point or another – in recent weeks – as many as fourteen names have been floated to fill the job which is currently being handled by Assistant Director Andrew McCabe.
Already, much is being said about the timing of the president’s decision; Comey is due to testify before Congress Thursday, regarding his contacts with the president that relate to the ongoing investigation into alleged attempts by Russia to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. Whether the timing is significant is open to speculation.
Virginia Senator Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, responded to the president’s decision with some skepticism, describing it as a distraction from the Russia Investigation. Describing Wray as a having a “good reputation,” Warner told CBS This Morning, “If we have a pattern today and tomorrow, I think all these efforts to distract the public that the president may be trying to throw up may not work.”
Attorney General Jeff Session released a statement regarding the pick.
Chris combines a brilliant legal mind, outstanding accomplishments and a proven record of public service…
The President asked us to look for an FBI Director who has integrity, who understands and is committed to the rule of law, and who is dedicated to protecting the American people from crime, gangs, and terrorists. We have found our man in Chris Wray.
At this early stage, it remains to be seen if the president’s selection of Wray will pass muster on Capitol Hill.