Amidst the chaos in his administration, Trump finally nominated a person to replace James Comey as Director of the FBI. The man he named is Christopher Wray, a lawyer who served as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division under the George W. Bush administration, and is currently a litigation partner with the law firm King & Spalding.
While I had heard the name, I knew very little about Mr. Wray, so I went in search of information, and here is what I found:
- While serving as Assistant Attorney General, he was actually under then Assistant Attorney General James Comey, the recently terminated FBI director whom Wray would be replacing if confirmed by the Senate.
- Wray was one of the attorneys involved in prosecuting energy giant Enron.
- Wray represented New Jersey governor Chris Christie over the ‘Bridgegate’ scandal in 2013, which could cause some concern in the Senate, as Christie has been one of Trump’s ‘boot-lickers’ since himself dropping out of the running last year.
- Those who have worked closely with Wray say he is low key, but stands up for what he believes in, and that he would not be swayed by inappropriate requests from Trump or his minions.
- In 2005, Wray received the Edmund J. Randolph Award, the Justice Department’s highest award for public service and leadership.
- He graduated from Yale University in 1989, and from Yale Law School in 1992.
- Though he has a reputation as being professionally non-partisan, he has donated to various republican candidates over the years, including John McCain and Mitt Romney. He did not, however, donate to Trump.
Wray seems like a straight shooter, however there are a couple of bits of controversy that we should consider, and about which the Senate will certainly have questions for Mr. Wray. From 2001-2003, Wray was an associate deputy district attorney in the Justice Department.
As part of his job, he played a pivotal role in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks by overseeing operations. According to government documents since made public, he was made aware in February 2004 of the death of a C.I.A. detainee in Iraq that had been ruled a homicide and whose case was referred to the Justice Department.
Months later, Mr. Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he had learned about the death from media reports and was not aware of a criminal referral from the Pentagon or the F.B.I., but did not say whether he knew of one from the C.I.A. That prompted Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, a Democrat, to accuse Mr. Wray of giving “less than a complete and truthful answer.” The Washington Post, 07 June 2017
Certainly not a major scandal, but the Senate is going to work hard, I believe, to ensure that the next FBI director has a squeaky-clean slate, and that he will not be cowed by pressure from the White House.
Another issue could arise from the fact that his current law firm, King & Spalding, represents at least two Russian-controlled oil companies, Rosneft and Gazprom (Am I the only person in the entire world without Russian connections???) Now if the name Rosneft sets off alarm bells, it is because its CEO, Igor Sechin, was the one who offered Donald Trump, by way of Carter Page, a 19% stake in the company in exchange for lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia.
It is unclear whether Wray himself worked directly on the Rosneft and Gazprom cases, but it is certainly enough to ask some tough questions, and to be leery of adding yet another strand to the spider web that is already enmeshing almost every member of the administration. Also, if Wray did in fact work on the Russian cases, it would automatically disqualify him from working on the Russian probe, as he would already be considered compromised.
If I were a senator, in addition to questions related to Bridgegate, 9/11 and Rosneft/Gazprom, I would have one other very important question: Why do you want this job? Given what Mr. Comey has had to put up with under Trump, and given that Trump is almost certain to continue attempting to interfere in the FBI investigations, I should think that only a fool would even consider taking this job. And Mr. Wray is no fool, so why does he want the job?
One other notable advantage to Mr. Wray is that since he had no role in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails, perhaps we can stop hearing about “those damn emails”!!!