Trump's FBI pick: Mueller isn't on a "witch hunt"
Christopher Wray, President Trump's pick to replace James Comey as FBI Director, told the Senate Judiciary Committee during his opening statement at his confirmation hearing that he hopes to "lead an independent Bureau that will make every American proud" — immediately addressing one of the biggest concerns for the position following Comey's firing in the midst of the federal government's Russia probe.
Two big quotes to that end:
- "No one asked me for any loyalty oath ... I sure as heck didn't offer one."
- "I do not consider Director Mueller to be on a witch hunt."
An excerpt from Wray's opening statement: "If I am given the honor of leading this agency, I will never allow the FBI's work to be driven by anything other than the facts, the law, and the impartial pursuit of justice. Period. My loyalty is to the Constitution and the rule of law. They have been my guideposts throughout my career, and I will continue to adhere to them no matter the test."
More live updates:
- Russian interference: Wray says that his knowledge is limited to public information on the topic, but he has "no reason whatsoever to doubt the assessment of the intelligence community." He also called Russia an adversary "in some situations," specifically citing election interference as an "adversarial act."
- Mueller's investigation: "I would consider an attempt to tamper with Mueller's investigation to be unacceptable and inappropriate."
- Relationship with POTUS: "I think the relationship between any FBI Director and any president needs to be a professional one, not a social one."
- If Trump asks him to do something unlawful: "I'd try to talk him out of it...if that failed, I would resign."
- Comey's firing: Wray said that he did not discuss the firing with anyone in the White House.
- Flashback: Wray confirmed that he was one of the Department of Justice officials — along with Mueller and Comey — set to resign over the Bush-era Stellarwind surveillance program in 2004.
- The Trump Jr. emails, generally: "Any threat or effort to interfere with our election by any nation state... is the kind of thing the FBI would want to know."
- On whistleblowers: "Retaliation against whistleblowers is just wrong. Period."
- Classified information: Wray said that the leaking of classified information might harm information sharing with our closest allies — interesting given Trump's disclosure of Israeli ISIS intel to Russian officials in the Oval Office.
- On torture: "My view is that torture is wrong, it's unacceptable, it's illegal, and I think it's ineffective." He said that the FBI would not utilize torture on his watch and stated that he has no recollection of reviewing or approving memos drafted by John Yoo in 2002 authorizing torture during his time at the Department of Justice.
- Driving the point home: "Anybody who thinks that I would be pulling punches as the FBI Director sure doesn't know me that well."
- Former Georgia Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn called Wray "one of the most skillful investigative lawyers in the country" with "a proven track record" in an opening statement.
- A huge bipartisan group of United States attorneys, including Eric Holder, Attorney General under President Obama, signed onto a letter backing Wray.