Updated at 12:14 p.m. ET
President Trump says he has chosen Christopher Wray, a former Justice Department official during President George W. Bush’s administration, to head the FBI. Wray now works on white collar crime at an international law firm.
The president named his pick via Twitter, writing Wednesday morning, “I will be nominating Christopher A. Wray, a man of impeccable credentials, to be the new Director of the FBI. Details to follow.”
The announcement comes one day before ousted FBI Director James Comey is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Trump fired Comey in May and has been interviewing candidates to succeed him.
Among Wray’s credentials is a stint as the assistant attorney general leading the Justice Department’s criminal division, from 2003 to 2005. In that post, he worked under attorneys general John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales — as well as under Comey, who was then the deputy attorney general.
Wray has been in private practice since then, working on white-collar crime and regulatory cases as a partner in the Washington, D.C., and Atlanta offices of the King & Spalding.
He has recently been involved in representing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the “Bridgegate” case over politically motivated lane closures on the George Washington Bridge.
The Asbury Park Press reports that Christie and Wray previously worked together during the Bush administration, when Christie was a U.S. attorney and Wray was a deputy attorney general.
“I have the utmost confidence in Chris,” Christie told the Press last week. “He’s an outstanding lawyer. He has absolute integrity and honesty, and I think that the president certainly would not be making a mistake if he asked Chris Wray to be FBI director.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions praised the choice, saying, “Chris Wray is an extraordinary person, possessing all the gifts necessary to be a great director of the FBI.”
Stating that Wray has “a brilliant legal mind,” Sessions added, “We are fortunate that he is willing to make this personal commitment to serve his country at this important time.”
The American Civil Liberties Union was less enthusiastic, issuing a statement saying that Wray’s history, which includes work by his firm on behalf of the Trump family, “makes us question his ability to lead the FBI with the independence, even-handed judgment, and commitment to the rule of law that the agency deserves.”
The FBI Agents Association, which includes thousands of current and retired agents, says its board “looks forward to meeting with Mr. Wray.”
According to Wray’s law firm bio, he “has substantial federal appellate experience, including successful oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Eleventh Circuit sitting en banc and before the U.S. Supreme Court.”
In awarding Wray’s law firm a “White Collar Group of the Year” award in February, legal website Law360 noted several high-profile cases the group won in 2016. They range from defending Huntington Ingalls Industries in a $2.5 billion false claims case over Hurricane Katrina funding to having claims dismissed against auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers over a corruption probe against Brazil’s Petrobras.
As the leader of King & Spalding’s special matters and government investigations unit, Wray was featured in a story about the award. Discussing the group’s approach, Wray told Law360, “It’s kind of a ‘keep calm and tackle hard’ philosophy.”
Wray said, “We’re more known for calmly and quietly diffusing a crisis or making matters go quietly away and keeping things in the middle of the road.”
Early in his career, Wray spent nearly a decade at the Justice Department, focusing on corporate fraud in addition to trade sanctions, money laundering and other areas of the law.
“He served on the president’s Corporate Fraud Task Force and oversaw the Enron Task Force and other major fraud investigations, both around the country and internationally,” Wray’s biography at King & Spalding states.
From 1997 to 2001, Wray was an assistant U.S. attorney in northern Georgia. In May 2001, he rose to become an associate deputy attorney general at the Department of Justice.
Wray graduated from Yale University in 1989 and also attended law school there, serving as an executive editor of the Yale Law Journal and earning his law degree in 1992.