Christopher Wray, President Trump’s nominee for FBI director, vowed in his confirmation hearing Wednesday to be fully independent from the executive branch if confirmed and said he had not discussed the firing of his predecessor, James Comey, with the White House.
“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. Full stop,” Wray said in his opening statement.
Wray was picked in June to succeed Comey, who was fired by Trump in May for pursuing an investigation into ties between the Russian government and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee pressed Wray on whether he would maintain the independence of the agency, in light of Comey’s earlier testimony that Trump had pressured him for a pledge of personal loyalty. Wray said he had given no such pledge to the White House and would not if asked.
“No one asked me for any kind of loyalty oath at any point during this process, and I sure as heck didn’t offer one,” Wray told Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Leahy followed up, questioning Wray on what he would do if the president asked him to commit an unlawful act.
“First I would try and talk him out of it and, if that failed, I would resign,” Wray responded.
Wray said he had not discussed Comey’s firing with the White House and discussed it only briefly with Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein shortly after being selected for the position.
He added that he is “very committed” to maintaining special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia.
“I would consider an effort to tamper with Director Mueller’s investigation to be unacceptable and inappropriate, and it would need to be dealt with very sternly and appropriately, indeed,” Wray told Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
Wray has a long background in criminal justice, having served as an assistant attorney general, leading the Department of Justice’s criminal division, under President George W. Bush. More recently he has practiced law and acted as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s personal attorney during the Bridgegate scandal.