New FBI Director Sworn In: Why Both Republicans and Democrats Like Him
Christopher Wray, 50, sailed smoothly through Senate partisan waters, securing confirmation as the FBI director with an overwhelming bipartisan support (92-5) on Aug. 1. He was sworn in on Aug. 2.
Wray garnered bipartisan support in a strongly polarized political climate by sticking to an apolitical line—a commitment welcomed by both Republicans and Democrats, many of whom saw the FBI leadership position as getting politicized.
Wray is a Republican, but hasn’t been known for airing his political views. Rather, he’s been known for doing his job as a public servant.
The Yale-educated lawyer hails from New York City and kicked off his career in government in 1997 as an assistant United States attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.
He moved to the Justice Department in 2001 accepting positions of associate deputy attorney general and principal associate deputy attorney general.
His most prominent era came in 2003, when President George W. Bush put him in charge of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division as assistant attorney general. There he led the high-profile corporate fraud investigation into Enron, an energy company that feigned profitability through large-scale accounting fraud.
In 2005, he left government and joined King & Spalding, a large, Atlanta-based corporate law firm.
On June 7, President Donald Trump announced his intention to appoint Wray as the FBI director, after Trump fired previous Director James Comey.
During his confirmation hearing, Wray said he will resist any political influence on FBI investigations.
“My commitment is to the rule of law, to the Constitution, to follow the facts wherever they may lead, and there isn’t a person on this planet whose lobbying or influence could convince me to just drop or abandon a properly predicated and meritorious investigation,” he said.
He emphasized FBI’s role in countering terrorism, saying he will focus on uncovering plots earlier in the planning stage and cutting off terrorists’ funding.
He also favored FBI partnering with local law enforcement. The bureau can cooperate on investigations and provide other assistance, like training. Meanwhile, he’d like local police to support FBI efforts, like counterterrorism.
Wray’s work on the Enron case endeared him to those seeking greater corporate accountability. Top Enron executives were prosecuted and sent to prison, while in recent years the Justice Department has seemed to favor penalizing corporate fraud through fines.
While the FBI is responsible for investigating, not prosecuting, Wray affirmed the former approach.
“I feel very strongly that when one is investigating companies, we need to look at the people, the individuals in the company, who may have engaged in wrongdoing, because companies act through people,” he told the senators.
On a matter of character, Wray said his soft-spokenness shouldn’t be misconstrued as spinelessness.
“I’ve heard many people describe me as understated and low-key. My kids would describe me more as just boring. No one should mistake my low-key demeanor as a lack of resolve, as some kind of willingness to compromise on principle. Because anybody who does would be making a very grave mistake,” he said.