WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced his pick for FBI director — a former Justice Department official who served as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s personal lawyer during the George Washington Bridge lane-closing investigation.
Trump’s early-morning two-sentence tweet that he intends to nominate lawyer Christopher Wray came one day before the FBI director that Trump fired last month, James Comey, was to testify in public on Capitol Hill for the first time since his dismissal.
Trump called Wray “a man of impeccable credentials” and offered no more information about the selection, ending the tweet by saying, “Details to follow.”
Wray served in a leadership role in the George W. Bush Justice Department, rising to head the criminal division and overseeing investigations into corporate fraud, during the time when Comey was deputy attorney general. Wray took charge of a task force of prosecutors and FBI agents created to investigate the Enron scandal.
With a strong law enforcement background, Wray is a traditional choice for the job. Trump had entertained current and former politicians for the role, including former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman. Though favored by Trump, Lieberman would have faced a challenging confirmation process; he pulled his name from consideration.
Comey, during his appearance before the Senate intelligence committee, is expected to describe his encounters with Trump in the weeks before his firing May 9. Comey could offer new details regarding discussions with Trump about the federal investigation into Russia’s election meddling and possible coordination with the Trump campaign.
The White House and its allies have been looking for ways to offset that potentially damaging testimony and have been working on strategies aimed at undermining Comey’s credibility.
Wray works in private practice for the King & Spalding law firm. He represented Republican Christie in the lane-closing investigation, in which two former Christie aides were convicted of plotting to close bridge lanes to punish a Democratic mayor who wouldn’t endorse Christie.
Christie and Wray met when Christie was the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey in the Bush administration. Christie said at a news conference last week that he worked together with Wray “a lot.”
“I have the utmost confidence in Chris. 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,” Christie said.
Christie, who has informally advised Trump, was not charged in the bridge case.
One of the questions hanging over Christie was about a dozen text messages he exchanged with a former staffer during legislative testimony by officials from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which manages the bridge, in 2013.
It’s not known what was in those messages and a judge rejected defense attorneys’ attempt to subpoena the phone last summer. After that ruling, Christie’s office revealed that Wray had the phone.
Christie had previously said he “gave it to the government,” but the U.S. attorney’s office said it never had the phone.
The law firm that Christie’s administration hired to review the scandal said it “returned” the phone after reviewing its contents in response to a government subpoena.