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Trump Names Former Justice Dept. Official Christopher Wray to Be F.B.I. Director

Christopher Wray

One day before former F.B.I. Director James Comey is set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, President Trump took to Twitter to announce his selection for Comey’s replacement:

WASHINGTON — President Trump said Wednesday that he had selected the former federal prosecutor Christopher Wray, a partner at the Washington law firm King & Spalding, to be his new F.B.I. director.

The president revealed his decision in a morning tweet.

The announcement comes a day before the former F.B.I. director James Comey was scheduled to testify about Mr. Trump’s attempts to get him to end the bureau’s investigation into his former national security adviser’s contacts with Russia. The action may represent an attempt to inject credibility into an investigation rocked by controversy and accusations of presidential tampering.

Mr. Wray is a safe, mainstream pick from a president who at one point was considering politicians for a job that has historically been kept outside of politics. Mr. Wray, a former assistant attorney general overseeing the criminal division under President George W. Bush, is likely to allay the fears of F.B.I. agents who worried that Mr. Trump would try to weaken or politicize the F.B.I.

Mr. Trump abruptly fired Mr. Comey, who had told associates that he felt the president was trying to influence him to drop inquiries that could affect him personally. The pick caps an extraordinary month in which Mr. Trump has been buffeted by his own shifting explanations for why he dismissed the former F.B.I. director, allegations that he shared highly classified information with top Russian officials in the Oval Office and the naming of a special counsel to oversee the investigation into his campaign’s possible ties with Moscow.

The decision was being closely watched not only for who will lead the nation’s premier law enforcement agency, where employees are still reeling from Mr. Comey’s firing, but also for signals about how the president will forge ahead amid the swirl of developments set off by the dismissal. Some Democrats have said impeachment proceedings should begin against him.

Mr. Trump, who fired Mr. Comey without having put in motion a plan to find his successor, conducted a whirlwind search, at one point zeroing in on Joseph I. Lieberman, the former Democratic senator and vice-presidential nominee, as a preferred finalist, even as he considered F.B.I. veterans including Adam S. Lee, the special agent in charge of the bureau’s Richmond, Va., field office; Richard A. McFeely, a former senior official; and Andrew G. McCabe, the acting director. Mr. Lieberman later withdrew from consideration.

CNBC has some biographical information about Wray:

Wray was nominated by President George W. Bush as assistant attorney general in charge of the Criminal Division, according to the U.S. Department of Justice website. He held that job until 2005.

The graduate of Yale Law School led the Enron Task Force when he was with the Department of Justice.

In his tweet, Trump said Wray had “impeccable credentials.”

As head of the Criminal Division, Wray led investigations and prosecutions in securities fraud, health care fraud, money laundering, public corruption and several other areas of federal criminal law, according to the the website of King & Spaulding, a Washington firm where he currently serves as a litigation partner.

And here’s Trump’s tweet:

In addition to working in the Bush Administration before going into private practice, Wray’s other claim to fame comes from having been New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s personal attorney during the Bridgegate scandal, suggesting that Trump may have sought advice from Christie prior to making the selection. In any case, Wray’s name had not come up in the previous speculation about the identity of Comey’s replacement, although it was reported that Wray was among the potential nominees that Trump had met with while searching for a replacement for Comey. His Wikipedia page, meanwhile, appears to have been created just this morning shortly after the announcement of the selection so we don’t know much about him beyond this bare minimum.  There’s more information about Wray available in his biography at the website for King & Spaulding, the law firm where he has been a partner since leaving the Bush Administration. We’ll learn more, I suppose, but the fact that there appears to be little information about Wray based on a Google search that leaves out any hits regarding the just-announced appointment suggests that this will be a relatively non-controversial appointment. Given the fact that Executive Branch appointments are no longer subject to the sixty-vote threshold in the Senate, it’s likely that he will be easily confirmed.

As I said above, the announcement of Wray’s selection, in addition to being unusual in the fact that it was announced on Twitter rather than a formal White House event, comes just over twenty-four hours before former Director James Comey is set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, where it is expected that the primary focus will be on the content of his conversations with the President regarding the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during that period. In that regard, there have been a number of new developments that seem to be a preview of what we can expect to hear from Comey tomorrow. Late yesterday, for example, it was reported that it was unlikely that Comey would be testifying regarding the question of whether or not Comey committed obstruction of justice, but that he would instead simply be testifying a fact witness to his conversations with the President. As I noted on Twitter last night, this is not entirely surprising and the proper position for Comey to take since it is generally not the job of a fact witness to give legal conclusions. Additionally, it’s unlikely that Comey will be discussing details of the ongoing investigation which is now being led by special counsel, Robert Mueller, with whom Comey is a friend of long-standing. It’s also being reported this morning that Comey told Attorney General Sessions, who now finds himself the focus of media attention, that he did not want to be alone with the President in the future due to the content of his conversations regarding the Russia investigation. It’s also being reported that Trump asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and C.I.A. Director Mike Pompeo to get Comey to “back off” the investigation of former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn. Both Coats and Pompeo are set to testify this morning before the Senate Intelligence Committee, and this report will no doubt come up during their questioning.

As for Wray, as I noted it appears that he’s likely to get easily confirmed, although the Russia investigation and the questions that will be inevitably raised by Comey’s testimony tomorrow will play a role in his confirmation.

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    I think the biggest story here is the influence Fat Chris apparently has with Dumb Don, and what that means when the inevitable deck chair shake-up comes?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  2. Mu says:

    “in the interest of good cooperation between the FBI and the DoJ I have replaced Mr. Sessions with my good buddy Chris Christyie (who won’t recuse himself of anything)”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  3. Scott O says:

    6 months from now:

    Donald J Trump.

    Christopher Wray very unfair to me. Bad guy. Why did Chris Christie pick this loser?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  4. CSK says:

    Kushner must be on the way out. Otherwise he never would have permitted Trump to appoint a Christie ally such as Wray.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  5. michael reynolds says:

    Anyone at this point who takes the job has to be assumed to be corrupted. Either that or he’s an idiot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

  6. Jen says:

    @michael reynolds: I don’t disagree with you, but think there could be another thought process at play…anyone accepting a position at this point might be calculating that Trump won’t be around too much longer and that a few months of pain might be worth it.

    Either that or a healthy helping of “while others haven’t been able to handle this, *I* can” hubris.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  7. CSK says:

    @Jen:

    Good point. I don’t think impeachment is in the cards–at least not right now–but someone like Wray could be thinking in terms of a forced resignation in the not-too-distant future.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  8. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Anyone at this point who takes the job has to be assumed to be corrupted. Either that or he’s an idiot.

    Not really…it’s a ten year appointment that, theoretically, is independent. And after all this it’s going to be easier to remain independent. (I think)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. James Pearce says:

    You asked for miracles, Theo, I give you the F.B.I.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. Not the IT Dept. says:

    This might be a better pick than we’ve been led to expect from other Trump genius moves. Wray worked with Comey at Justice for two years, and was part of the group ready to resign over the WH’s effort to get a hospitalized John Ashcroft to sign off on bad documents:

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/06/07/donald-trump-christoper-wray-fbi-james-comey/102580756/

    At the very least, he’s not some of the other horrendous possibilities that were floated.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  11. cian says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Wasn’t McMaster supposed to be the incorruptible man? And before him, weren’t we told Mattis would be the adult in the room and not allow the Defense Department to be bullied? Seems like the shit falls so fast in this administration you’d need to wear a hat and carry an umbrella at all times. Even then, you’re going to get covered in the stuff.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  12. MarkedMan says:

    I see three possibilities:
    1) Wray is legitimate and will do a thorough job. Trump will fire him. (The ten year term is at the whim of the sitting president)
    2) Christie has something on Wray and has promised Trump he will keep him in line in exchange for a cabinet level post
    3) This is the 4 dimensional chess one: Christie has told Trump he has something on Wray and can keep him in line, but really has nothing. After Trump sacks Sessions and puts Christie in as AG, ol’ Chris turns on him and in partnership with his old buddy Wray, proceeds to destroy Trump, the man he holds responsible for destroying his political career. .

    As much as #3 would make a great TV show episode, I suspect it is #2.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  13. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I really like #3.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. bookdragon says:

    His resume looks pretty solid until you run into the fact that he’s a partner in a law firm representing Russia’s National Oil Company Rosneft.

    Seriously, can Trump find anyone not somehow tied to Russia?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  15. roger says:

    I think a fair question to be asked during the confirmation hearing is if Wray was asked to pledge loyalty to Trump or not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  16. CSK says:

    @bookdragon:

    No matter what rock you turn over, there’s a Putin under it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @michael reynolds:
    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:
    On the other hand…he’s already being used for political purposes…to take eyes off the Comey hearing…so maybe he is ready and willing to be a pawn???
    I don’t think the IC is happy with the timing of this tweet-nomination.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. Mikey says:

    Thank goodness. It could have been SO much worse.

    I mean, we got a non-politician with a decent amount of experience at DoJ, who spent some time working for the previous Director. Compare Wray to the potential candidates named previously and he looks like a very good choice indeed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. Mikey says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: That’s unnecessarily harsh. Wray’s not in any control of the timing of the nomination. Is he supposed to turn it down because Trump’s being an ass about it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. michael reynolds says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: @Jen:

    Show me a single person who has worked for Trump and not been compromised and diminished.

    That’s why I say he’s an idiot, even if not corrupt. I don’t know how many times you have to see people touch a hot stove and end up heading for the emergency room before it becomes obvious that you should not touch the stove.

    100% of people who work for Trump will have their careers and reputations ruined. It will be like working for Nixon or John Gotti. This will never look good on any resume. The major law firms seem to have figured that out: https://www.yahoo.com/news/four-top-law-firms-turned-requests-represent-trump-122423972.html The fact that Wray cannot see the obvious means he’s either a crook or an idiot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  21. MarkedMan says:

    @michael reynolds:

    100% of people who work for Trump will have their careers and reputations ruined.

    Read more: http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/trump-names-former-justice-dept-official-christopher-wray-to-be-f-b-i-director/#ixzz4jL4wDIm2

    This. Times 100. As both a manager myself and as an observer of other managers, one of the top things that separates success from failure is the ability to recognize a disastrous situation early and take decisive action. And one of the sure signs of monumental failure for all is when the managers collectively go into cover-my-own-ass mode, and huddle in the shadows in fear while hoping against hope that someone else will deal with the problem.

    The current Republican congress-critters are very definitely falling into the second category. They are failing to recognize that Trump will bring them all down, that he is toxic at a level that makes Ted Cruz into Miss Congeniality. Instead they are completely paralyzed by the fear of what their voters will do if they turn on Trump. Tactically, they would be better off acting early, doing whatever they need to do to get Trump to resign, and then trusting that the voters will forget in 18 months. Voters being voters, they will. What they will find instead is that things are only going to get worse, and Trump will ineveitably sell them all out. They will be campaigning with Trump’s toxicity welded to their foreheads for all to see.

    I’m not saying Trump himself is toast. It is possible he may get re-elected. But as Mike points out, those in his wake will get chopped to pieces by his propeller.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  22. michael reynolds says:

    Like I said:

    Wray’s law firm reps Russian oil. Surprise!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. teve tory says:

    @bookdragon:

    His resume looks pretty solid until you run into the fact that he’s a partner in a law firm representing Russia’s National Oil Company Rosneft.

    You’ve got to be kidding.

    (checks)

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. If trump were deliberately trying to destroy the GOP by making them defend the indefensible over and over he couldn’t be doing any better.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  24. michael reynolds says:

    @bookdragon:
    Oops, I did not see that you beat me to it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I think that maybe the broader question is:

    Even if they’re fairly low on the rankings, K&S still (somehow) manages ppp of $1.935 million.

    So why does anyone walk away from $1.935 million per year to accept a relatively thankless and probably career ending job – one which requires working for a psychopath, no less – which only pays $172,000 per year?

    Professionally, he’s going backward, and in a massive way. I, for one, would like to know why …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  26. Tyrell says:

    Director Hoover set a high standard for all F.B.I. directors.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. David M says:

    Eh, he’s not John Cornyn, so I’ll be thankful for some non-awful news here.

    Obviously he’s still suspect simply because Trump chose him and he said yes, but at least he’s not Jeff Sessions. I know, I know, the soft bigotry of low expectations and all that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0