President Donald Trump's nominee to replace former FBI Director James Comey emphasized his independence from political influence during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday morning.
Christopher Wray, who formerly headed the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice during the George W. Bush administration, was nominated for the position after Trump's controversial firing of Comey in May.
“I fully understand this is not a job for the faint of heart, and I can assure this committee I am not faint of heart,” Wray said.
Wray sided with Comey in his assessment that the relationship between the FBI director and the president should be “a professional one and not a social one,” and emphasized his plans to pursue that distance.
Wray also vowed that no one from the Trump administration had asked him for loyalty, as Comey testified Trump had previously demanded from him.
Views on Russia Probe
Several senators asked Wray about revelations yesterday that Donald Trump Jr., Trump's son, met with a Russian lawyer along with Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort and son-in-law Jared Kushner at the height of the 2016 presidential election campaign in search of dirt on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Wray said he “must have missed” Donald Trump Jr.'s emails. He did suggest that, in the event of being contacted by foreign entities as Trump's son was, politicians should inform the FBI rather than meeting with the individuals and then keeping it secret for over a year.
Wray distanced himself from the White House on several issues, at one point making clear he did not believe the FBI's investigation into Russia's involvement in the 2016 constituted a “witch hunt,” adding he will be very committed to supporting the special counsel leading the investigation in Comey's absence, Robert Mueller.
'Cut From the Same Cloth'
In an interview with Independent Journal Review Wednesday afternoon, Bill Mateja — a former Justice Department prosecutor who was hired by Wray — said he expects the FBI director nominee and Mueller to work well together, referencing their time together at the Justice Department.
“They got along. They worked together well then, they're going to work together now,” Mateja told IJR. “Chris is going to put a lot of stock in what his friend and former colleague is doing.”
Mateja also told IJR he thought it was odd that Trump picked someone like Wray to replace Comey.
“I think they're cut from the same cloth,” Mateja said.“The biggest difference between Chris and Jim is that he is not quite as gregarious ... he's more introverted.”
And that might be why some Democrats, such Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have already expressed their approval of the nominee.
“I'm going to vote 'yes,'” Feinstein said as she left the hearing. “I see him as being a good FBI director.”