President Donald Trump has picked Christopher Wray to be the next director of the FBI. Leading up to this announcement, there was some concern that Trump might select a partisan figure for the job, so is that the case with Wray?
According to NJ.com, Christopher Wray is a registered Republican. He was originally nominated to the position of Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Criminal Division by President George W. Bush. In addition, according to Open Secrets, Wray has donated money to Republican politicians including Tom Price, David Perdue, Johnny Isakson, Rob Portman, and Saxby Chambliss. He also donated to Mitt Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008. There are no records of him donating to Democratic politicians.
Christopher Wray was also the personal lawyer to Republican Governor Chris Christie during the “Bridgegate” trial.
In 2003, when Christopher Wray was going through his Senate confirmation hearings, he was introduced by Saxby Chambliss, a Republican politician.
“We are truly fortunate to have someone as qualified as Mr. Wray to serve as the assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division,” Chambliss said. “Former Attorney General Griffin Bell, former Senator Sam Nunn, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson all unconditionally support this nominee.”
Wray’s nomination in 2003 was not a controversial one; he was confirmed unanimously.
In 2008, the Office of the Inspector General conducted an investigation into politicized hiring during the George W. Bush administration. As part of this investigation, Christopher Wray was interviewed, and Wray said that political ideology was never really a factor in hiring to the Department of Justice, although saying that if anything it may have affected conservatives.
“For example, Christopher Wray, then Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General, said that politics and ideology only arose in the context of the concern of trying to be more inclusive,” the report reads. “He said there was a perception that in past administrations the career employees doing the screening may have weeded out candidates because the selecting officials were not ‘comfortable with their political persuasion.’ He said the political persuasion he was referring to pertained to candidates who had been in the military or law enforcement, ‘whether you call that conservative or not.'”
In 2004, Christopher Wray had some disagreements with the Bush administration. He threatened to resign alongside James Comey and Robert Mueller during Comey’s showdown with the White House over a plan to renew the National Security Agency’s Terrorist Surveillance Program while then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was in the hospital. According to The Washingtonian, Wray said to Comey at the time, “Look, I don’t know what’s going on, but before you guys all pull the rip cords, please give me a heads‑up so I can jump with you.”
Interestingly, Christopher Wray has expressed support for Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general who was appointed by Barack Obama and fired by Donald Trump. When Obama nominated Yates to the position of deputy attorney general, Wray signed a letter supporting her nomination.
A letter signed by a number of attorneys at the law firm King and Spalding, including Christopher Wray, read, “All of us strongly believe Sally possesses the necessary qualities to make her an effective leader of the Justice Department, and we are honored to support her nomination to be the next Deputy Attorney General.”
Christopher Wray certainly is not as overtly partisan a figure as Trump had been considering. For example, one of the names that was reportedly on Trump’s list was Trey Gowdy, a Republican Congressman. Trump had also considered Joe Lieberman, a former Democratic senator. Typically, however, the FBI director is not a political figure, and Christopher Wray fits in that tradition, even if he is a registered Republican. James Comey, too, was a registered Republican when he became FBI director, yet he ended up clashing with a Republican president and being fired.
When Wray was nominated by Trump, Democratic politicians generally did not take issue with the pick, instead raising questions about the timing of Trump’s announcement, which came just as a number of FBI and Justice Department officials were testifying before Congress. In an interview on MSNBC, Democrat Mark Warner said that Wray has a “good reputation,” although he said he did not know much about him. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said that Wray “may be fine” while adding that she needs to vet him, according to CNN.