Se­nate OKs FBI direc­tor

Christo­pher Wray, Trump’s pick to re­place Comey, wins bi­par­ti­san ap­proval.

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - Stephen Dinan con­trib­uted to this re­port. BY AN­DREA NOBLE

The Se­nate over­whelm­ingly voted to ap­prove Christo­pher Wray as the new FBI direc­tor Tues­day, with both Repub­li­cans and Democrats ex­press­ing con­fi­dence he will lead an in­de­pen­dent bu­reau and shield his in­ves­ti­ga­tors from po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence.

Pres­i­dent Trump nom­i­nated Mr. Wray, an as­sis­tant at­tor­ney gen­eral un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush now in pri­vate prac­tice, to fill the post left va­cant in May af­ter he abruptly fired James B. Comey, who was over­see­ing a probe into Trump cam­paign of­fi­cials’ deal­ings with Rus­sia sur­round­ing last year’s elec­tion.

Mr. Comey’s fir­ing set off a chain that led to the ap­point­ment of special coun­sel Robert Mueller to lead the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, though the FBI, now un­der Mr. Wray, will still pro­vide the bulk of in­ves­tiga­tive power.

“Mr. Wray was asked di­rectly what he would do if pre­sented with the op­por­tu­nity to in­flu­ence th­ese in­ves­ti­ga­tions in any way. He told the com­mit­tee that he won’t con­done tam­per­ing with in­ves­ti­ga­tions, and that he would re­sign rather than be un­duly in­flu­enced in any man­ner,” said Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Charles Grass­ley, Iowa Repub­li­can. “Mr. Wray’s record of ser­vice, and his rep­u­ta­tion, give us no rea­son to doubt him.”

The con­fir­ma­tion marked some­what of a break­through af­ter months of Democrats slow-walk­ing Trump nom­i­nees in the Se­nate.

Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer said Democrats had been ob­struct­ing to reg­is­ter their dis­ap­proval of how the GOP was han­dling the health care de­bate, but with that now over the con­fir­ma­tion process can go faster. A group of eight De­fense Depart­ment nom­i­nees was ap­proved Tues­day evening.

“I al­ways said af­ter health care was over, we’d try to get to­gether on a good pack­age and we’re mak­ing head­way in that re­gard,” Mr. Schumer said.

Mr. Wray was con­firmed on a 92-5 vote, with all five of the dis­sents com­ing from Democrats: Sens. Kirsten Gil­li­brand, Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley, El­iz­a­beth War­ren and Ron Wy­den.

Mr. Wy­den said he voted against the nom­i­na­tion be­cause of Mr. Wray’s stance on pri­vacy is­sues.

“In his pub­lic and pri­vate state­ments, Chris Wray failed to op­pose gov­ern­ment back doors into Amer­i­cans’ per­sonal de­vices, or to ac­knowl­edge the facts about en­cryp­tion — that it isn’t about lib­erty ver­sus se­cu­rity, it’s about more se­cu­rity ver­sus less se­cu­rity,” the Ore­gon Demo­crat said.

Mr. Wray has been work­ing as a cor­po­rate lawyer at King & Spald­ing LLP for more than a decade. His last post in the fed­eral gov­ern­ment was in 2005, when he headed the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s sprawl­ing crim­i­nal di­vi­sion.

He also brings coun­tert­er­ror­ism and coun­teres­pi­onage ex­per­tise to the ta­ble, hav­ing worked on those is­sues for the Jus­tice Depart­ment af­ter the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror at­tacks. Be­fore that, he served as a fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor in At­lanta.

In pri­vate prac­tice, Mr. Wray re­cently served as a per­sonal at­tor­ney for New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie dur­ing the “Bridge­gate” scan­dal. He has also rep­re­sented a slew of Fortune 100 com­pa­nies un­der state and fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tions, in­clud­ing John­son & John­son and Credit Suisse AG.

While he will be un­der the mi­cro­scope at the FBI, Mr. Wray earned bi­par­ti­san sup­port dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hearing, when he promised law­mak­ers that he was out­side the pres­i­dent’s sphere of in­flu­ence and would re­sist any ef­forts to politi­cize the bu­reau as it helps in­ves­ti­gate the Rus­sia scan­dal.

“If I am given the honor of lead­ing this agency, I will never al­low the FBI’s work to be driven by any­thing other than the facts, the law and the im­par­tial pur­suit of jus­tice. Pe­riod. Full stop,” Mr. Wray told the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hearing. “My loy­alty is to the Con­sti­tu­tion and the rule of law.” That com­mit­ment was enough to win over skep­ti­cal Democrats, in­clud­ing Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris, who has op­posed other Trump nom­i­nees.

The Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat said it was “fun­da­men­tally im­por­tant” that the FBI direc­tor be “com­mit­ted to the rule of law or trans­parency” and “re­spect the nec­es­sary sep­a­ra­tion between the Depart­ment of Jus­tice and the White House.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who ques­tioned Mr. Wray dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hearing about his stance on tor­ture be­cause of his ser­vice in the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, said she was sat­is­fied with his an­swers on those mat­ters. But she warned that his re­solve on the in­de­pen­dence of the FBI could face a test early on in his term.

“I be­lieve the next FBI direc­tor’s in­de­pen­dence, in­tegrity and com­mit­ment to the rule of law, sadly, will likely be tested by this ad­min­is­tra­tion,” the rank­ing Demo­crat on the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee said.

Mr. Wray is ex­pected to be sworn into of­fice Wed­nes­day.

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