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Monday 20 January 2020

New FBI chief Christopher Wray pledges loyalty to the rule of law

Christopher Wray has been confirmed as the new FBI director at a difficult time for the bureau (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
Christopher Wray has been confirmed as the new FBI director at a difficult time for the bureau (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

The US Senate has confirmed Christopher Wray to lead the FBI, replacing James Comey, who was fired by Donald Trump amid the investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election.

The vote was 92-5 for Mr Wray, a former high-ranking official in President George W Bush's justice department who oversaw investigations into corporate fraud.

Mr Wray, 50, inherits the FBI at a particularly challenging time given Mr Trump's ousting of Mr Comey, who was admired within the bureau.

"This is a tough time to take this tough job," Senator Amy Klobuchar said.

"The previous FBI director, as we know, was fired because of the Russia investigation. The former acting attorney general was fired. And we've had a slew of other firings throughout the government over the last few months."

Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska said after the vote: "Chris Wray will bring character and competence to a city that is haemorrhaging public trust."

Mr Wray won unanimous support from the Senate judiciary committee last month, with Republicans and Democrats praising his promise never to let politics get in the way of the bureau's mission.

Asserting his independence at his confirmation hearing, Mr Wray said: "My loyalty is to the Constitution and the rule of law. Those have been my guideposts throughout my career, and I will continue to adhere to them no matter the test."

Mr Trump astonished Washington on May 9 by firing Mr Comey in the middle of his 10-year term as the FBI chief and as the law enforcement agency was investigating Russia's role in the election and possible ties to Trump campaign officials.

Andrew McCabe has served as acting FBI director during the nearly three-month interim period.

Mr Wray has worked on white-collar crime and regulatory cases as a partner at the King & Spalding law firm.

From May 2001 to May 2005, he held various high-ranking positions in the justice department, rising to the head of the criminal division in September 2003. He also served as principal associate deputy attorney general.

He was a federal prosecutor in the US attorney's office for the Northern District of Georgia from May 1997 to May 2001. Mr Wray had represented New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the so-called Bridgegate scandal.

"Mr Wray possesses the skill, the character and the unwavering commitment to impartial enforcement of the law that we need in a FBI director," said Senator, Republican chairman of the judiciary committee.

The senior Democrat on the panel, California Senator Dianne Feinstein, said Mr Wray "has the strength and fortitude to stand up and do what it is right when tested".

She added: "We need leaders with steel spines, not weak knees, and I am hopeful that Mr Wray will be just such a leader."

Voting against the nomination were five Democrats who have opposed many of Mr Trump's nominees: Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, and Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon.


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