There are some legitimate reasons to question the background of Christopher Wray, the former assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal division, whom President Trump announced Wednesday as his nominee for FBI director.
But here’s the good news: There will be a hearing. It will be highly anticipated. It will be long. It will be tough. And Wray’s record, positions and suitability to serve will be scrutinized. Democrats, and (hopefully) moderate Republicans will drill down on whether he can serve as an unbiased FBI director with an unwavering commitment to the rule of law.
And remember — the FBI director has a 10-year term. Senators aren’t weighing whether they can stomach a nominee for the duration of the Trump presidency, but whether they can accept an FBI director nominee who would serve until 2027.
One of the key questions that must be asked is whether Donald Trump would have reason to believe that Wray would pass a loyalty test — purportedly the standard to which he wanted to hold his predecessor.
And given the circumstances surrounding Trump’s firing of former FBI director James Comey — circumstances made all the more significant in light of Comey’s advance statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee — there are valid reasons to be skeptical about Trump’s motivation in picking Wray to fill the position.
Wray was Chris Christie’s lawyer during “Bridgegate.” Elected officials who are accused of misusing power and government resources hire lawyers. Of course they do. But lawyers also choose their clients.
Wray made significant financial contributions to the presidential campaigns of John McCain and Mitt Romney. Is that unprecedented? No, it is not. But in this hyper-partisan environment, he is still going to have to explain this overt expression of party loyalty. (Comey has said he was a registered Republican for much of his adult life but is no longer.)
And, while it doesn’t appear that Wray himself did work for the Trump organization, his firm, King & Spalding, advises the Trump family real estate empire, according to a report in the New York Times.
The nomination fight for Wray should not automatically be the next prolonged Washington showdown, however. The role is too important to leave vacant. In normal times, the FBI director is not overseeing an investigation into the ties of the President’s buddies to a foreign adversary. He is overseeing investigations ranging from hate crimes to acts of terrorism and he works with the rest of the national security team to keep us safe.
And the truth is — Wray is far better than many of the rumored alternatives and he deserves recognition that his credentials make him unquestionably qualified for the position.
At this time in our country, thank goodness there is a desire to fight. Not just in Washington, but around the country. And when it comes to fighting back against healthcare “reform” that will result in millions of people with pre-existing conditions losing their coverage, or efforts to roll back environmental regulations that protect our air and drinking water and provide opportunities to empower and encourage the growth in clean energy, by all means let’s protest and march.
But before we Democrats raise our pitchforks over the Wray nomination, let’s wait to see what the next few days of reporting uncover. Let’s see what background quotes come from the FBI and the law enforcement community. Let’s figure out if he is someone who could take his years in public service fighting against white-collar crime and translate it to lead the FBI at a tumultuous time for the bureau.
Let’s be what many Republicans in Congress were not during the Obama administration — rational actors considering the qualifications of someone on the merits and not on the basis of party or loose affiliation with the President.