WASHINGTON — FBI Director nominee Christopher Wray asserted his independence and intent to act “by the book” while sidestepping the growing controversy over Trump campaign’s Russia connections during his confirmation hearing yesterday.
Wray, who is poised to win easy bipartisan confirmation to replace fired FBI Director James B. Comey, used his opening statement to underscore that his loyalty would eschew political pressure and be guided only by “the facts, the law and the impartial pursuit of justice. Period.”
“My loyalty is to past testimony, the Constitution and the rule of law,” Wray said, referring to Comey’s claim that President Trump asked him to pledge his loyalty in order to keep his job.
During questioning, Wray said Trump has made no such request of him.
“No one asked me for any loyalty oath, and I wouldn’t offer one,” Wray said.
Wray, a white-collar defense attorney and former head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, avoided questions about emails showing Donald Trump Jr. agreed to meet with Russian nationals promising to provide Russian government-backed information about Hillary Clinton. Wray said he was too busy preparing for his confirmation hearing and meeting with senators yesterday to even read the emails.
But he said anyone who is offered Russian-provided opposition research should contact authorities.
“Any threat or effort to interfere with our election by any nation state or any non-state actor is the kind of thing the FBI would want to know,” Wray said.
He pushed back on Trump’s repeated claims that the Russian probe headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is, as Trump has repeatedly labeled it, a “witch hunt” designed to harm Trump politically.
“I do not consider Director Mueller to be on a witch hunt,” Wray told lawmakers just hours after Trump used that term again on Twitter yesterday.
Wray, who worked with Comey and Mueller during his Justice Department tenure, at times separated himself from Comey’s actions, particularly Comey’s decision to hold a press conference to announce Clinton would not face charges over her private email server use, using the opportunity to also detail what Comey called Clinton’s “extreme carelessness.”
“I can’t imagine a situation where I would give a press conference on an uncharged individual, much less talking in detail about it,” Wray said.
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