The Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s pick to lead the FBI broke with the president in key areas Wednesday, rejecting the idea that an investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump election campaign is a “witch hunt” and promising not to cave to any pressure from a White House that has challenged boundaries with the nation’s top law enforcement agency.
Christopher Wray, the former high-ranking Justice Department official whom Trump nominated last month, told senators at his confirmation hearing that he would never let politics get in the way of the bureau’s mission. And he said he “sure as heck” would not offer a pledge of loyalty to the president.
Asserting his independence, he said, “My loyalty is to the Constitution and the rule of law. Those have been my guideposts throughout my career, and I will continue to adhere to them no matter the test.”
Wray’s responses seemed to satisfy both Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, many of whom signaled their support for him.
Wray, 50, would inherit the Federal Bureau of Investigation at a particularly challenging time given Trump’s abrupt dismissal of James Comey, who was admired within the bureau. Yet the hearing, the first public window into Wray’s views since his selection, was largely devoid of fireworks, in keeping with what friends and supporters have described as the nominee’s low-key, disciplined style.
His reserved approach could bode well for the agency at a time when its work has been thrust into the center of a political maelstrom. But, Wray said, “Anybody who thinks that I would be pulling punches as FBI director sure doesn’t know me very well.”
After Trump dismissed Comey on May 9, the former FBI director said that the president had asked him to pledge his loyalty during a dinner at the White House months earlier. He also said Trump had encouraged him to end an investigation into the former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Wray said he got no demand for personal loyalty, nor would he pledge it.
The back-and-forth with lawmakers focused extensively on the Russia investigation, with Wray repeatedly voicing his respect for Robert Mueller, the former FBI director selected in May as the special counsel to oversee the probe.