LIVE STREAM: Christopher Wray Senate Confirmation Hearing
13 July, 2017, 00:25
For almost a decade, the Yale Law School graduate steadily climbed the ranks at the Justice Department, starting as an assistant US attorney in Atlanta and departing in 2005 after serving as the chief of the sprawling Criminal Division in the Washington headquarters. He also represented New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the so-called Bridgegate investigation of politically motivated traffic delays in 2013.
"There's been a lot of contentious times", Wray replied, "But this one is certainly up there". Wray deflected specific questions from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham about the president's son's emails, saying he had not read them.
At the start of his questioning, Graham also pointed out an article from January on Ukraine trying to help the Clinton campaign expose Trump's ties to Russian Federation and question his fitness for office.
Wray made the remarks in reference to a question about former Director James Comey's decision to publicly disclose the conclusions of his investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server as secretary of state.
"Our highest priority was protecting America from the threat of terrorism and strengthening national security", Wray said in a 68-page questionnaire to the committee about his earlier work at the department.
Former Justice Department officials spoke highly of Wray, describing him as: "the right man at the right time for the nation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation".
"My loyalty is to the Constitution, to the rule of law and to the mission of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I'm not sure it's going to be a nice life", Hatch told Wray during the hearing. "And that is with strict independence".
Will you be loyal to the justice system or to the president? Leahy asked. "She [Yates] kept her word, and got fired for it".
"I think Russian Federation is a foreign nation we have to deal with very warily", Wray said, while acknowledging that "in some situations", they are our adversary. "If that failed, I would resign".
Would you meet privately with the president if asked? "They have been my guideposts throughout my career, and I will continue to adhere to them no matter the test", Wray said. But he would also help carry out Attorney General Jeff Sessions's focus on fighting illegal immigration and violent crime.
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Still, Wray - if confirmed - is walking into agency that has been buffeted by unrelenting controversy since previous year, starting with Comey's decision not to recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server and then to suddenly re-open the inquiry just 11 days before the 2016 election. Wray eventually said he would not have done either of those things. I want you to be Socrates.
"I do not consider Director Mueller to be on a witch hunt", Mr. Wray said.
"I do not consider Director Mueller to be on a witch hunt", Wray said, after being pressed.
During an exchange with Sen. "I view him as the consummate straight shooter".
What about the F.B.I.'s Russian Federation investigation?
Does Trump have the authority to fire Director Mueller?
"I don't know the law on that", Wray replied.
GRAHAM: All right, so I'll take it that we should call you, and that's a great answer. Flynn was forced out of his job after less than a month for misleading White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, about his discussions with Russia's ambassador to the USA after the 2016 election. Trump allies have said Mueller's closeness to Comey shows he can't lead an unbiased probe.
If confirmed, the Yale Law School graduate would play a key role in Mueller's investigation, overseeing the agents that the special counsel depends on to pursue his probe.
"I don't know", Wray told Leahy. Officials familiar with that work say it includes an examination of whether the president may have attempted to obstruct one of those investigations. There's a special counsel investigation. Al Franken, D-Minn., are taking it up in the Senate.
"That's never been my experience with him", Wray replied. He headed the department's criminal division from 2003 to 2005, and from 2001-2002 he was the deputy attorney general's deputy. King & Spalding's links to Russia may raise questions as to whether Wray would offer a recusal from the FBI's investigation into Russian election interference.
He also said that he considered waterboarding, one of the most notorious interrogation techniques, to be "torture".
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