Christopher Wray, a former Justice Department official now working as a private attorney, is President Donald Trump’s pick to replace ousted FBI Director James Comey, Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.
Chris Wray, who served as assistant attorney general from 2003 to 2005, was interviewed for the vacant FBI director job by President Trump on May 30, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at a press briefing. Wray worked under Comey at the Justice Department for two years, when Comey was the deputy attorney general.
In his tweet on June 7, Trump said Wray is a “man of impeccable credentials.”
The White House issued a statement from Trump later Wednesday, saying, “I am proud to announce Christopher as my choice as the Director of the FBI. During his previous service at the Department of Justice, Christopher was the leader of major fraud investigations, and was a key part of the team overseeing the Justice Department’s actions in the war on terrorism following the 9/11 attacks. He is an impeccably qualified individual, and I know that he will again serve his country as a fierce guardian of the law and model of integrity once the Senate confirms him to lead the FBI.”
In a statement, Wray said, “It is a great honor to be selected by the President to return to the Department of Justice as Director of the FBI. I look forward to serving the American people with integrity as the leader of what I know firsthand to be an extraordinary group of men and women who have dedicated their careers to protecting this country.”
The position has been open since Trump decided to fire Comey on May 9. Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe assumed the role of acting director upon Comey’s dismissal and is also among those to be considered for the full-time job.
Here’s what you need to know about Wray:
1. Wray Worked in the Justice Department With James Comey & Robert Mueller, Threatening to Resign With Them During Comey’s White House Showdown in 2004
In 1997, Christopher Wray began his career in government with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, where he was an assistant U.S. Attorney. He was moved to “Main Justice” in 2001, serving as associate deputy attorney general and principal associate deputy attorney general, according to the Justice Department’s website.
President George W. Bush nominated him as assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division in 2003. He received unanimous confirmation from the Senate.
In that role, Wray was involved in a variety of cases, including terrorism and white collar fraud, according to the King & Spalding law firm’s website:
Mr. Wray helped lead the Department’s efforts to address the wave of corporate fraud scandals and restore integrity to U.S. financial markets. He served on the President’s Corporate Fraud Task Force and oversaw the Enron Task Force and other major fraud investigations, both around the country and internationally.
As the Criminal Division’s head, Mr. Wray led investigations, prosecutions, and policy development in nearly all areas of federal criminal law, including securities fraud, healthcare fraud, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and trade sanctions violations, bank secrecy and money laundering offenses, public corruption, intellectual property piracy and cybercrime, and RICO. Mr. Wray was also integral to the DOJ’s response to the 9/11 attacks and played a key role in the oversight of legal and operational actions in the continuing war on terrorism. At the conclusion of his tenure in 2005, Mr. Wray received the Edmund J. Randolph Award, the Department’s highest award for public service and leadership.
Wray worked alongside James Comey and former FBI director Robert Mueller at the Justice Department during his time in the Bush administration. Mueller was chosen in May to serve as special counsel for the Justice Department’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election.
While Wray was assistant attorney general from 2003 to 2005, Comey was the deputy attorney general and Mueller was leading the FBI as its director.
He was willing to resign along with Comey and Mueller in 2004, during Comey’s showdown with the White House over the plan to renew the National Security Agency’s Terrorist Surveillance Program while then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was hospitalized.
According to the Washingtonian, Wray approached Comey at the Justice Department headquarters and said, “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.”
2. Wray Has Been a Litigation Partner at the King & Spalding Law Firm Since He Left the Justice Department in 2005
Christopher Wray, 50, has been a litigation partner at the King & Spalding law firm, working out of its Atlanta and Washington D.C. offices, since he left the Justice Department in 2005, according to the firm’s website.
“Chris Wray is one of the nation’s top litigators and understands the prosecution of white collar crime extremely well. We are proud to welcome him back to King & Spalding,” said Walter W. Driver, Jr., King & Spalding’s chairman in a press release at the time. “As head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, Chris has been in charge of investigations, prosecutions and policy development in virtually all areas of federal criminal law — from fraud and public corruption to terrorism, money laundering, computer crime and appellate litigation. He has the will and experience to effectively drive the continued growth of our special matters practice, and our clients will benefit greatly from the experience he has gathered while at the Justice Department.”
Wray said in a statement, “I am thrilled to return to the firm where I began my legal career and to see how King & Spalding has grown in the past eight years. I am excited to lead such a distinguished group of attorneys and look forward to working with them to best serve our clients. That includes handling major corporate investigations and enforcement matters, internal investigations and working proactively to ensure that the proper corporate policies and business practices are adopted early on to ensure not only government compliance — but also business success.”
According to the firm’s website, “Mr. Wray chairs the King & Spalding Special Matters and Government Investigations Practice Group, which represents companies, audit and special committees, and individuals in a variety of white-collar criminal and regulatory enforcement matters, parallel civil litigation, and internal corporate investigations.”
Wray’s group has been named the “White-Collar Group of the Year” by Law360 and was called “the premier firm in this practice area” by U.S. News & World Report, according to the firm.
He is considered one of the top litigators in white-collar crime and government investigations, according to several publications.
Chambers USA called him a “renowned heavy hitter in this space” and a “top-notch advocate who can provide counsel on the toughest issues,” who “brings instant credibility and will give you straight answers without blowing smoke.”
Wray is in his second stint with King & Spalding. He began working at the law firm’s Atlanta office in 1993, and left in 1997 for a job in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia.
Another partner at the law firm, Bobby Burchfield, is ethics adviser to the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, which holds the president’s assets, according to Newsweek.
Trump picked a third King & Spalding partner, Gilbert Kaplan, to be his secretary of commerce for international trade in the Department of Commerce and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats once worked for the firm, Newsweek reports.
Wray is likely to face questions about whether he ever provided services for the trust or Trump Organization because of an executive order signed by Trump that says presidential appointees can’t “participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients,” according to Newsweek.
Other Trump administration critics are pointing to the fact that King & Spalding represents Rosneft, a Russian state-owned oil company. It does not appear that Wray had any role in the firm’s work with the oil company, which was mentioned in the leaked Christopher Steele dossier as possibly being involved in coordination with former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
King & Spalding is a large firm with more than 900 attorneys. Its work with Rosneft appears to be handled by its Moscow office and its partner Jennifer Josefson, while Wray has worked in Atlanta and Washington D.C., representing American companies and clients.
3. He Was Chris Christie’s Personal Attorney During the Bridgegate Investigation & Has Also Represented Several Fortune 100 Companies
Christopher Wray served as the personal attorney to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie during the “Bridgegate” controversy, an investigation into the closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge as political payback against a local politician, according to ABC News. Three of Christie’s top aides were found guilty of federal crimes, but Christie was cleared of criminal charges.
While representing Christie, Wray was found to be in possession of a lost cell phone that the New Jersey governor had claimed he had given to the Department of Justice, the Associated Press reports. The phone included about a dozen text messages between Christie and a former staffer during legislative testimony by Port Authority officials in 2013. It is still not known what was said in those messages. Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, the former Christie aides found guilty in the Bridgegate scandal, had sought to subpoena the phone for their criminal trial, but a judge declined the request. It was then that it was revealed that Wray had been holding the phone, according to NJ.com.
Christie praised Trump’s decision to nominate Wray
“I have the utmost confidence in Chris. He’s an outstanding lawyer. He has absolute integrity and honesty, and I think that the president certainly would not be making a mistake if he asked Chris Wray to be FBI director,” Christie told the Asbury Park Press after the nomination was announced. He would not comment about whether he had any role in the president’s decision to consider Wray, according to the newspaper.
Christie and Wray previously worked together in the early 2000s, while Christie was U.S. Attorney for New Jersey and Wray was deputy attorney general, according to the Asbury Park Press. Christie said they worked together “a lot,” including on a fraud investigation into the drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb, the newspaper reports.
Wray has also worked with several Fortune 100 companies, according to his law firm’s website.
“Since returning to the firm in late 2005, Mr. Wray has led investigation matters involving U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in over twenty different districts around the country and nearly every litigating division of the Justice Department, typically also involving parallel proceedings by regulatory agencies and parallel class action or qui tam whistleblower litigation,” the law firm says.
4. Wray Graduated From Yale Law School & Clerked for Appeals Court Judge Michael Luttig
Wray graduated from Yale University in 1989 and went on to Yale Law School, receiving his law degree in 1992, according to his law firm’s website. He was the executive editor of the Yale Law Journal.
After law school, Wray spent one year as clerk to Judge J. Michael Luttig of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Wray attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. His father, Cecil Wray, was an partner at the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton and his mother, Gilda Wray worked for the Charles Hayden Foundation.
He is married, to Helen Wray, with two children, a daughter, Caroline, 22, and a son, Trip, 20, and lives in Georgia.
Wray married his wife, the former Helen Howell, in 1989, according to the New York Times. They were classmates at Yale, graduating that same year.
Helen Wray grew up in Georgia and attended the Westminster Schools in Atlanta. She was the business manager of the Yale Daily News while in college.
5. He Was Among Several People Interviewed During the Search for Comey’s Replacement, Including Many Who Withdrew From Consideration
Wray was part of a lengthy list of contenders for the FBI Director job.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer said May 30 that another former Bush administration official, John Pistole, was also being interviewed for the job on the same day as Wray.
Pistole, 60, also worked in the Obama administration. He served as deputy director of the FBI from 2004 to 2010, and then became the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration in June 2010. He left that job in 2014 and has been the president of Anderson University in Indiana, a private Christian university, since then. He is known to be close friends with Vice President Mike Pence.
Along with Joe Lieberman, others considered for the job, including Justice Department Criminal Division Chief Alice Fisher, Congressman Trey Gowdy and Senator John Cornyn, removed themselves from consideration for various reasons, CNN reports. Judge Michael Garcia, who sits on the New York Court of Appeals and career FBi official Richard McFeely have also dropped out of the running.
Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein have also interviewed Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, former Congressman and FBI agent Mike Rogers, former Homeland Security adviser Fran Townsend and former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, according to CNN.
“When the President feels as though he’s met with the right candidate, he’ll let us know,” Spicer said Tuesday at the press briefing. “He’ll meet with candidates today and continue to do so until he finds the right leader.”
Spicer was asked if Wray and Pistole are the finalists for the job, and he responded, “The president is the ultimate decision maker. When he makes a decision as to who is best to lead the FBI, he will let us know.”