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Trump Picks Bush-Era Assistant AG Christopher Wray to be FBI Director

Assistant Attorney General Christopher Wray, right, and Director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys Mary Beth Buchanan hold a press conference Jan. 12, 2005, in Washington. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)

WASHINGTON — With former FBI Director James Comey set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday about his dealings with President Trump, the president today announced his pick to head the Bureau.

“I will be nominating Christopher A. Wray, a man of impeccable credentials, to be the new Director of the FBI. Details to follow,” Trump tweeted this morning.

Wray served as assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division from 2003 to 2005, confirmed by unanimous consent in the Senate and working under then-Deputy Attorney General Comey. In that role, Wray served on President Bush’s Corporate Fraud Task Force and led the Enron Task Force.

During the 2004 battle with Attorney General John Ashcroft over Bush-era warrantless domestic spying, Wray sided with Comey, reportedly stopping the deputy AG in the hallway at DOJ and saying, “Look, I don’t know what’s going on, but before you guys all pull the rip cords, please give me a head’s up so I can jump with you.”

He left the DOJ to join King & Spalding as a litigation partner, where he leads the Special Matters and Government Investigations Practice Group. His clients have included pharmaceutical companies, financial institutions, Fortune 100 companies, tech firms and a defense contractor.

His most notable recent client: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Wray was Christie’s attorney during the Bridgegate investigations. Christie was a U.S. Attorney when Wray was assistant attorney general.

“I have the utmost confidence in Chris. He’s an outstanding lawyer,” Christie said last week. “He has absolute integrity and honesty, and I think that the president certainly would not be making a mistake if he asked Chris Wray to be FBI director.”

Wray was named a “Lawyer of the Year” for white-collar criminal defense in the 2016 U.S. News & World Report “Best Law Firms” survey.

Another partner at Wray’s firm, Bobby Burchfield, serves as ethics adviser to the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, the trust that holds all of the president’s business interests.

Potential candidates Trump interviewed for the job, which has been vacant for nearly a month, included former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas).

Lieberman was interviewed for the job on the same day that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the appointment of Mueller as special counsel in the investigation of Russia’s campaign influence operation.

Trump called him, Lieberman said, and told him, “I’d like you to think about whether you want to be director of the FBI. I think you’d be great at it. And I’m sure he said that to other people. And I’d like to talk to you more about it. And my first reaction was just honest, Mr. President, I’m honored that you’d ask me to think about this, but honestly, I have a — I’m very happy with my life now.”

Cornyn said in a mid-May statement: “Now more than ever the country needs a well-credentialed, independent FBI director. I’ve informed the administration that I’m committed to helping them find such an individual, and that the best way I can serve is continuing to fight for a conservative agenda in the U.S. Senate.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) took himself out of the running early in the process, telling Attorney General Jeff Sessions “the qualities I believe are indispensable for our next FBI director to possess” and his “firm conviction that I would not be the right person.”