- - Monday, August 7, 2017

The FBI is the premier investigative agency in the world, with more than 35,000 agents and staff working all around the globe. The men and women of the FBI work diligently to disrupt and prevent terrorist attacks on America and to preserve the liberties of all Americans by upholding and enforcing the rule of law.

The restoration of the rule of law in our culture, and of the public understanding of the integrity of the FBI, is critical for the fair, impartial and successful pursuit of justice and preservation of liberty.

The president’s nominee to lead the FBI — Christopher Wray — has spent his career devoted to the protection of liberty and the prosecution of criminal violations of our laws. The rule of law is at the heart of his character and embedded in his DNA.

Mr. Wray’s resume is a testament to this, and to his exceptional qualifications for this role: assistant U.S. attorney, assistant attorney general, partner at one of the country’s top law firms. He is a recipient of the Edmund J. Randolph Award, the Department of Justice’s highest honor for public service and leadership.

Chris Wray joined our team at the Department of Justice early in my tenure as attorney general, serving in a leadership position in the deputy attorney general’s office. He was a steady hand in an unsteady time, as the nation was still reeling from the Sept. 11 attacks on America. His strong character and leadership were taken note of at the highest levels, and in 2003 he was promoted: The president nominated Chris to lead the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, and the U.S. Senate confirmed him unanimously. Every senator from Ted Kennedy and Harry Reid to Jesse Helms recognized Chris’ impeccable credentials and qualifications for that great responsibility.

During our time working together at the Department of Justice, Mr. Wray prosecuted successfully al Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui for conspiring to kill U.S. citizens as part of the Sept. 11 attacks on America. He played a key role in the prosecution of the Washington, D.C. snipers, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Malvo, who murdered 10 people and worsened our national anxiety after Sept. 11. He was instrumental in forming the president’s Corporate Fraud Task Force and coordinating the response to high-profile corporate accounting scandals.

Yet in spite of all of his professional accomplishments, Mr. Wray has personally preferred to maintain a low profile. He is a workhorse. Mr. Wray is a person devoted to the Constitution, profoundly professional and fiercely independent. I always knew I could count on him to challenge my views when he believed them to be mistaken.

Chris has won bipartisan endorsements from his fellow former U.S. attorneys, including from former Attorney General Eric Holder and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. Last month the Senate Judiciary Committee approved his nomination for FBI director by a vote of 20 to 0. That kind of bipartisanship is rare in Washington these days, and is a testament to Chris’ character and record.

The much-needed restoration of respect for the rule of law in America demands an FBI that prioritizes law enforcement above and beyond any personal or political agenda.

Extraordinary men and women of the FBI have worked for decades — behind the scenes and without recognition — to protect our country from some of the most dangerous criminals in history. They deserve an administration that makes the rule of law the rule, and not the exception.

The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of America. Chris Wray, as the independent, professional director of the FBI, will respect and uphold it.

• John D. Ashcroft is a former U.S. attorney general.

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