Jul 12, 2017

Trump's FBI pick: Mueller isn't on a "witch hunt"

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / APddd

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."

Some endorsements:

  • 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.

Background: Learn more about Wray's credentials for the job.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 766,336 — Total deaths: 36,873 — Total recoveries: 160,001.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 153,246 — Total deaths: 2,828 — Total recoveries: 5,545.
  3. Federal government latest: The White House will extend its social distancing guidelines until April 30 — Rep. Nydia Velázquez diagnosed with "presumed" coronavirus infection.
  4. State updates: Virginia and Maryland issued stay-at-home orders to residents, joining 28 other states — Florida megachurch pastor arrested for refusing to call off mass services.
  5. World updates: Italy reports 1,590 recoveries from the virus, its highest ever.
  6. In photos: Navy hospital ship arrives in Manhattan
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Cuomo: Engaging in politics during coronavirus crisis is "anti-American"

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a Monday press briefing that he won't get into a political tussle with President Trump — calling it "counterproductive" and "anti-American" — as his state deals with the most confirmed coronavirus cases in the country.

The backdrop: Trump said during an appearance on "Fox & Friends" earlier Monday that Cuomo has received high polling numbers during the outbreak because New York has received federal aid.

Maryland and Virginia issue coronavirus stay-at-home orders

Data: Axios reporting; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued stay-at-home orders on Monday, with exceptions for residents engaged in essential services, including health care and government functions.

The big picture: The states are the latest to announce policies to enforce social distancing, which have affected almost 250 million Americans. More than 1.5 billion people worldwide had been asked to stay home as of last week.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health