WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced Wednesday he plans to nominate Christopher A. Wray, the former assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal division, to be the next FBI director.
Trump’s announcement comes one day before former FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump fired last month, is set to testify in a bombshell hearing before the Senate.
“I will be nominating Christopher A. Wray, a man of impeccable credentials, to be the new Director of the FBI. Details to follow,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.
Wray headed up the Justice Department’s criminal division from 2003 to 2005 under President George W. Bush and is currently a litigation partner at the DC-based law firm King & Spalding, where he chairs the firm’s Special Matters and Government Investigations Practice Group.
He also represented New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during the “Bridgegate” investigation into lane closures at the George Washington Bridge. Last week, Christie told the Bergen Record that Trump “would not be making a mistake” were he to tap Wray to lead the FBI.
He was interviewed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, two weeks ago, a Justice Department official told CNN.
Served during Bush administration
Wray was among the top Justice Department officials who planned to resign en masse with Comey and then-FBI Director Robert Mueller after top White House officials attempted in 2004 to reinstate a warrantless domestic surveillance program that the Justice Department had ruled illegal.
He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2003 to lead the Justice Department’s criminal division, where he oversaw several high-profile investigations, from the Enron scandal to the Justice Department’s response to terrorism in the wake of 9/11.
He first joined the Justice Department as associate deputy attorney general after four years as assistant US attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, which covers the city of Atlanta.
He’s also has represented a slew of Fortune 100 companies that have been the subject of state and federal investigations.
Wray is a Yale Law school graduate, where he served as executive editor of the Yale Law Journal.
Tumultuous weeks in wake of Comey firing
The sudden announcement cuts into a bubbling news cycle about tensions between Trump and Sessions, who in recent weeks told Trump he would be willing to resign, a senior administration official confirmed to CNN on Tuesday.
The announcement caps off several tumultuous weeks for the White House since Trump suddenly fired Comey, prompting allegations that Trump was trying to impede the FBI’s investigation into ties between his campaign associates and Russia and eventually leading Rosenstein to appoint Mueller as special counsel to oversee that investigation.
Rosenstein was only empowered to make that decision because Sessions in March recused himself from involvement in that investigation due to his role as a top Trump campaign adviser and prominent surrogate.