Seven Things You Should Know About Trump’s Pick to Head the FBI
Policy + Politics

Seven Things You Should Know About Trump’s Pick to Head the FBI

REUTERS/Molly Riley

Christopher A. Wray, President Trump’s choice to succeed James B. Comey as director of the FBI, is a seasoned criminal lawyer and former Justice Department official who represented New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during the notorious “Bridgegate scandal.”

Wray, 50, a Washington and Atlanta-based defense lawyer who specializes in white-collar crime, is viewed by some as a relatively safe choice for Trump, who is deeply embroiled in controversy surrounding his recent firing of Comey during an FBI probe of possible collusion between Trump campaign aides and the Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.

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Trump’s tweeted announcement Wednesday morning of his choice of Wray came with no advanced warning and caught many on Capitol Hill by surprise. And while his nomination will undoubtedly be scrutinized by many lawmakers concerned about the FBI coming under pressure from the White House, Wray’s seemingly unblemished record should help him get through his Senate confirmation hearings.

Wray was nominated in 2003 by former Republican President George W. Bush as an assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. After he had been confirmed, he worked under Comey who was then the Deputy Attorney General. During his three-year tenure heading the Criminal Division, Wray led important corporate fraud probes, including the Enron investigation.

Moreover, those who know him say he demonstrated integrity in office and even offered to join Comey and Robert S. Muller II in threatening to resign in 2004 to protest a controversial government surveillance program.

Alice Fisher, who succeeded Wray as chief of the Justice Department criminal investigation, told The New York Times today that Wray “is a wonderful choice to lead the FBI who cares deeply about the institution and already has strong relationships with the FBI.”

Trump tweeted that Wray was "a man of impeccable credentials," without elaborating. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), said that Wray seemed like "the perfect kind of person" for the job because he was a “career person” who knew his way around government.

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Here are seven things you need to know about him:

  • Wray was born Dec. 17, 1966 in New York City, and prepped at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He graduated cum laude from Yale University in 1989, became executive editor of Yale Law Review, and received his law degree from Yale Law School in 1992. In 1989, he married Helen Garrison Howell has two children.

  • After clerking for an appellate court judge, Wray began his federal government career in 1997 as an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. He climbed the Justice Department ladder in 2001 when he was promoted to associate deputy attorney general and principal associate deputy attorney general.

  • Later, as an assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Wray presided over investigations of a wave of corporate fraud in the U.S. and overseas. One of his biggest cases was the prosecution of a massive bookkeeping scandal that led to the bankruptcy of the Houston-based Enron energy conglomerate and the dissolution of Arthur Andersen, one of the five largest auditing companies in the country.

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  • Wray was also actively involved in the Justice Department’s investigation into the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

  • Since leaving government more than a decade ago, Wray has been a litigation partner in the international law firm of King & Spalding, working out of the firm’s offices in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. There, he switched hats and defended major Fortune 100 financial, pharmaceutical, telecommunication, healthcare, high-tech and transportation corporations in high-profile federal criminal and civil investigations. 

  • Wray befriended Christie when the two worked together as young attorneys in the Justice Department during the Bush Administration. Christie at the time was the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey, and Wray was an up-and-coming Justice Department official in the criminal division.

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  • Years later, Wray represented the embattled New Jersey governor in the wake of the “Bridgegate” scandal that erupted in September 2013, after Fort Lee, N.J., access lanes to the George Washington Bridge were shut down for two days and created havoc.

Although three of Christie’s top aides and political appointees eventually were convicted for their roles in shutting down the lanes in the act of political revenge against the mayor of Fort Lee, Christie was cleared of wrongdoing.

However, the scandal-dogged Christie and seriously damaged his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Christie last week urged Trump to pick Wray to succeed Comey, describing him as an “outstanding lawyer.”