Monday 23 October 2017

New FBI director 'will bring character and competence to a city haemorrhaging trust'

New job: Christopher Wray. Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts/File Photo
New job: Christopher Wray. Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

Rachael Alexander

Christopher Wray has been overwhelmingly confirmed by the Senate to lead the FBI, replacing James Comey, who was abruptly fired by US President Donald Trump amid the investigation into Russian meddling in last year's 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.

"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."

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 (50) 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 Wray and Mr Comey helped bring the case against Kenneth Lay, the former Enron chairman convicted in 2006. Also involved in the Enron matter was Robert Mueller, then FBI director and now special counsel named after Mr Comey was fired to investigate the Russia affair, as well as Andrew Weissman, who is now working for Mr Mueller.

The web of Enron connections underscores the reliance in Washington, even under a president who vowed to "drain the swamp", on an elite corps of corporate lawyers whose varied careers often intersect and who sometimes present conflict-of-interest issues.

For instance, after he left the Justice Department and joined top international law firm King & Spalding, Mr Wray represented Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the so-called Bridgegate scandal over massive traffic jams created as political punishment for a local mayor.

Mr Wray represented Mr Christie in a scandal that resulted in two of the governor's aides being convicted. Mr Christie, who was a close adviser to Mr Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign and whose name was floated as a possible Comey replacement, was never charged.

Mr Christie has called Mr Wray "an outstanding choice, a non-political choice" to head the FBI.

Mr Wray worked as a King & Spalding litigation partner and represented companies and individuals in white-collar criminal and regulatory enforcement matters. King & Spalding has represented Russian companies including state gas monopoly Gazprom, according to its website.

According to the website, the firm's energy practice also has represented businesses taking part in deals involving Russian entities including state-owned oil major Rosneft.

The firm has previous ties to Mr Trump. Bobby Burchfield, a partner in its Washington office, serves as ethics adviser for the trust set up in January to isolate Mr Trump from the day-to-day operations of the Trump business organisation.

Irish Independent

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