Trump picks former federal prosecutor as new FBI chief

Mr Christopher Wray, a highly regarded criminal defence lawyer, is seen as a safe mainstream pick.
Mr Christopher Wray, a highly regarded criminal defence lawyer, is seen as a safe mainstream pick.

WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump said yesterday that he has selected former federal prosecutor Christopher Wray, now a Washington-based criminal defence lawyer who recently represented Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey in the so-called Bridgegate scandal, to be his new FBI director.

Mr Trump posted the announcement on Twitter, calling Mr Wray a "man of impeccable credentials", and saying more details would follow. His appointment would still have to be confirmed by the Senate.

The announcement came a day before former Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey was to testify about Mr Trump's attempts to get him to end an investigation into his former national security adviser's contacts with Russia.

Mr Wray, a partner at King & Spalding, is a safe, mainstream pick from a President who at one point was considering politicians for a job that has historically been kept outside of politics. A former assistant attorney-general who oversaw the criminal division under then President George W. Bush, Mr Wray is likely to allay the fears of FBI agents worried that Mr Trump will try to weaken or politicise the bureau.

Two administration officials said Mr Wray is a hybrid pick for Mr Trump: He is a seasoned criminal lawyer, who bonded with Mr Christie when both were young attorneys in the Justice Department, and a highly regarded criminal defence lawyer who represented Mr Christie in the aftermath of the scandal over traffic jams that rocked his governorship.

That his political skills were honed in the crucible of scandal gave him an edge over the other finalist, Mr John Pistole, the former deputy director of the FBI and head of the Transportation Security Administration, the officials said.

He managed to soothe and counsel the volatile Mr Christie, a Trump ally. Mr Wray also played a pivotal role in the aftermath of the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, providing oversight of operations as the country adjusted to a new reality.

As head of the criminal division from 2003 to 2005, he directed efforts to deal with fraud scandals plaguing the corporate world.

Before joining the leadership of the Justice Department in Washington in 2001 as an associate deputy attorney-general, Mr Wray served as a federal prosecutor in Atlanta.

He graduated from Yale University in 1989 and earned his law degree in 1992 from Yale Law School.

NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2017, with the headline 'Trump picks former federal prosecutor as new FBI chief'. Print Edition | Subscribe