- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Less than a month after President Trump fired FBI director James B. Comey, he used his favorite social media platform to announce the nomination of a replacement — Christopher A. Wray, a white-collar criminal defense attorney who led the Justice Department’s Criminal Division under President George W. Bush.

The announcement, issued on Twitter, was as abrupt as the dismissal of Mr. Comey, who testified Thursday about his turbulent relationship with the president.

The nomination garnered support from Republicans in Congress as well as former Justice Department officials. But many Democrats appeared tepid to quickly stake a position on Mr. Trump’s selection, with several indicating they would have to learn more about the nominee.

Mr. Wray last worked for the Justice Department in 2005, when he served as assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division. In that position, which required Senate confirmation, he worked closely with the FBI and supervised the Justice Department’s work on criminal cases and its efforts to combat terrorism.

Since then, he has worked in private practice at King & Spalding law firm and specialized in white-collar and regulatory matters. He recently served as a personal attorney for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during the “Bridgegate” scandal.

Mr. Wray joined the Justice Department in 1997 and worked as a prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia until he began work at Main Justice as an associate deputy attorney general in 2001. During his time at the Justice Department, he served on Mr. Bush’s corporate fraud task force and oversaw the Enron Task Force.

“Christopher Wray’s impressive credentials make him more than ready for the sober task of leading the FBI in fulfilling its law enforcement and national security missions, especially at a time when our country faces so many serious threats both at home and abroad,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican who will oversee Mr. Wray’s confirmation proceedings, expressed similar support. He said he intends to move forward with the confirmation hearings once the committee receives the necessary materials.

The ranking Democrat on the committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, told Politico that Mr. Wray appeared “qualified” but that she didn’t know “that he has any national security credentials.”

Other Democrats, including Sen. Mark R. Warner of Virginia, said they hoped to learn more about Mr. Wray in the coming days.

They weren’t the only ones. The FBI Agents Association held off on an endorsement of Mr. Wray, but President Thomas O’Connor said the association’s board looks forward to meeting with the nominee.

“As the key stakeholder in this process, it is critically important that the FBIAA understands his views on the FBI, special agents, and the criminal and national security threats that agents combat daily,” Mr. O’Connor said.

Lawyer Todd Alley, a former colleague of Mr. Wray in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Atlanta, praised the president’s choice.”He’s a smart, capable, high-integrity lawyer,” Mr. Alley said. “And he was a good coworker — good dude, good to be around.”

Former and current Justice Department officials, on the other hand, gushed over Mr. Wray’s nomination.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions called Mr. Wray “a man in whom all Americans can have confidence.”

Former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson described him as “highly experienced” and a “super smart” lawyer.

“I worked with Chris for a number of years and always had complete confidence in him. He simply doesn’t make mistakes,” Mr. Thompson said. “We are lucky he decided to re-enter public service.”

Others who had been in the running for the FBI position — including Ken Wainstein, a former assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s National Security Division, and Alice Fisher, who took over the department’s Criminal Division after Mr. Wray left the department — also had high praise.

But as Mr. Wray’s background comes under the microscope, any connections to the Trump network could signal a red flag for those eager to ensure the next FBI director is completely independent of the president. His more recent work as a white-collar defense attorney also could generate scrutiny.

Earlier this year, the Trump Organization tapped a partner at Mr. Wray’s law firm to serve as an independent ethics adviser. Meanwhile, Mr. Wray has represented Mr. Christie, who served as Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman.

“Christopher Wray’s firm’s legal work for the Trump family, his history of partisan activity, as well as his history of defending Trump’s transition director during a criminal scandal makes us question his ability to lead the FBI with the independence, even-handed judgment, and commitment to the rule of law that the agency deserves,” said Faiz Shakir, national political director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Mr. Wray also has represented a slew of Fortune 100 companies under state and federal investigations, including Johnson & Johnson, which paid $2.2 billion in a 2013 agreement in to resolve criminal and civil charges. He also represented Credit Suisse AG as it agreed to a $2.6 billion settlement with the Justice Department and New York state financial regulators over allegations it helped U.S. citizens evade taxes.

Mr. Trump said last month that he wanted to move quickly to name a replacement for Mr. Comey, whom he fired amid the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the November presidential election and connections to the Trump campaign.

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president had been impressed by his credentials, as well as by “the bipartisan support he felt that he would get.”

⦁ Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

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