WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced former Assistant Attorney General Christopher Wray as his choice to fill the FBI director vacancy left by the ouster of James Comey, tweeting the news Wednesday on the eve of Comey’s scheduled testimony before the Senate.
Wray is a “man of impeccable credentials,” Trump said.
Wray, currently a litigator in white-collar crime at a private law firm, was a top Department of Justice official under former President George W. Bush and played a key role in legal operations after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Later, he headed the agency’s Criminal Division.
He also defended New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the Bridgegate case.
Trump abruptly fired Comey on May 9. Comey is expected to testify Thursday that Trump asked both for his loyalty and for him to drop an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
“I will be nominating Christopher A. Wray, a man of impeccable credentials, to be the new Director of the FBI. Details to follow,” the president tweeted early Wednesday.
Later in the day, the White House released a formal statement.
“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,” Trump said in the statement.
Wray, 50, is a litigation partner is the Washington, D.C., and Atlanta offices of King & Spalding.
He graduated from Yale Law School.
If confirmed by the Senate, he would serve a 10-year term.
“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,” he said in a statement to The Associated Press.
He did not return Newsday’s requests for further comment.
Trump told reporters of Wray: “He’s going to be great.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose relationship with Trump is reportedly strained, congratulated the president on his pick.
“The President asked us to look for an FBI Director who has integrity, who understands and is committed to the rule of law, and who is dedicated to protecting the American people from crime, gangs and terrorists,” Sessions said in a statement. “We have found our man in Chris Wray.”
The White House for the second day in a row would not say definitively whether the president has confidence in Sessions.
Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, like Press Secretary Sean Spicer, said she had not asked Trump about it.
The Department of Justice distributed to reporters statements of bipartisan praise for Wray that included officials under former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Those who know Wray said he would be independent.
Officials with the ehe American Civil Liberties Union questioned whether Wray could be independent in light of his “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.”