When Donald Trump fired James Comey as FBI director, the circumstances were highly unusual and controversial. Complicating matters, the White House hadn’t lined up a successor, and attempts to quickly choose a nominee failed – in part because the politicians the president had in mind for the job withdrew from consideration.
The search turned to people whose names weren’t immediately recognizable to Trump, and a week ago, the New York Times reported that the president was poised to interview Christopher Wray, a former assistant attorney general who oversaw the criminal division in the Bush/Cheney Justice Department.
Wray, now a partner at King & Spalding, led the Justice Department’s Criminal Division from 2003 to 2005, and his firm biography says that he “helped lead the Department’s efforts to address the wave of corporate fraud scandals and restore integrity to U.S. financial markets.” He oversaw the president’s corporate fraud task force and oversaw the Enron Task Force. Before that, he worked in a variety of other Justice Department roles, including as a federal prosecutor in Atlanta.
More recently, he has served as the attorney for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), a Trump ally.
The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman noted that Wray was not the person White House aides encouraged Trump to nominate. One wonders whether Chris Christie made a recommendation that helped sway the president’s thinking.
For more on Wray’s professional background, the Justice Department has a good online bio, but the questions that are likely to surround this nomination won’t be found in a c.v.
Based on what we’ve learned in recent months, Donald Trump – whose political operation is under an ongoing counter-espionage investigation – believes he’s justified in pressuring the head of the FBI, seeking loyalty from the head of the FBI, and firing the head of the FBI if he or she becomes a political problem for the White House.
Against this backdrop, it’s difficult to see Wray’s nomination through a lens that hasn’t already been smudged by the president who chose him.
As MSNBC’s Chris Hayes added this morning, “The only thing that would make one suspicious of Wray’s integrity is the fact Trump chose him after (presumably) interviewing him.”