While watching the testimony of Christopher Wray before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, it became quite clear that Chris Wray is “safe.” Why do I say that?
Because no one challenged him on much of anything. There were a few questions about whether Mr. Wray would do something “illegal” or “immoral” if the President asked. Concerns about an “evil” J. Edgar Hoover FBI were expressed.
He was asked again and again whether he believed “the Russians did it.”
Lindsey Graham was a bit pushy, continually cutting off Wray in order to ask another question or read from an email (Don, Jr.’s). Apparently he had just learned that Politico had run an article about his pet nation, Ukraine, and their alleged attempts to negatively impact the Clinton campaign. Sen. Graham said, “I have no idea if [the allegations] are true…”
(Here is the article.)
Graham then insisted on beating the Trump, Jr./Kushner/Manafort meeting Natalia Veselnitskaya to death while FORCING Wray to “tell Senators to call the FBI” if they were contacted by “foreign agents” looking to influence elections.
Dick Durbin defended Comey in his questioning. Then John Cornyn attacked Comey without mentioning him.
Sheldon Whitehouse asked about Wray’s take on waterboarding and torture in general.
Amy Klobuchar asked about working with local agencies.
Al Franken acted as Clinton apologist.
Chris Coons asked about “values.”
And on it went….
Everyone seemed in agreement that Mr. Wray would have no trouble getting confirmed as the new Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
For his part, Mr. Wray showed that he is very careful with his words and phrases.
“We would rather catch a terrorist with his hands on a check, instead of catching him with his finger on a button.”
“My loyalty is to the Constitution.”
“I was never asked to give an oath of loyalty, and I sure as heck didn’t offer one!”
Wray refused to call Russia the “enemy” when pressed, but only that they had acted in an”adversarial” fashion.
When asked about the “Russian hacking” claims, he kept saying, “I have no reason to doubt the intelligence agencies.”
So who is Christopher Wray?
Mr. Wray was born to a well-off family. His father was a lawyer with Debevoise & Plimpton, the NYC firm best known for its involvement in the Alger Hiss case. His mother was a program officer for the philanthropic Charles Hayden Foundation.
Christopher attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, a school that counts George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Jeb Bush among its alumni.
He attended Yale for undergraduate studies, and stayed in New Haven to get his J.D. from Yale Law School. For those keeping score, Yale Law counts two more US Presidents among its grads, in this case Gerald Ford, and Bill Clinton.
Upon graduation, Wray took a position at King & Spalding in Atlanta.
Wray began his “public service” in Georgia in 1997 as an assistant US Attorney, but moved up quickly.
In 2001, he went to the Justice Department as associate deputy attorney general.
In 2003, George W. Bush nominated Wray for assistant attorney general in charge of the Criminal Division of the Justice Department, and he was unanimously confirmed.
In 2005, Wray returned to King & Spalding, this time having a greater reach.
When asked on the Senate Judiciary Questionnaire to list an analyze his 10 most important cases, he listed the prosecution of a former Atlanta Braves pitcher for mail fraud (Sally Yates was his co-counsel), a counterfeiting and murder-for-hire case, a RICO case, a kidnapping, a gun-running case, plus the “Luciferian” serial church arsonist case.
Now things get more interesting. In 2001, Mr. Wray was lead prosecutor in a case against Raymond McClendon and Theresa Stanford. It was alleged that McClendon, the owner the nation’s largest black-owned investment bank had colluded with Stanford, who was the Investment Officer for the City of Atlanta to funnel as much as $9.8 billion of Atlanta’s funds to McClendon. Wray got the conviction, with McClendon receiving a 7 year sentence, and Stanford getting 4 years.
The defense attorney for McClendon in that case? King & Spalding had the case, and no other than Larry Thompson was lead counsel. Larry Thompson would leave King & Spalding in 2001 because George W. Bush nominated him to be Deputy Attorney General. The same department that Wray would join only a few months before Thompson’s departure.
Among his Top 10, Mr. Wray does list his defense of Janssen Pharmaceuticals in a case concerning Risperdal and his defense of Credit Suisse for tax evasion.
What he fails to mention…
Chris Wray was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s personal lawyer during the investigation of the Fort Lee lane closure and the resulting chaos. The case became widely known as “Bridgegate.”
More interestingly omitted is a case Mr. Wray talks of on page 51 of the questionnaire. In 2005, Mr. Wray argued a case before the US Supreme Court. Illinois v. Caballes, 542 U.S. 405 (2005). In the case, it was argued that it was a Fourth Amendment violation to extend a routine traffic stop in order to wait for a “narcotics-detection” dog. Mr. Wray obviously argued on behalf of the government that the Fourth Amendment was not violated. The Court agreed with the government.
So Christopher Wray helped to limit the rights of average Americans.
So what makes Chris Wray safe?
The “mainstream” media, a/k/a “the establishment” would have us believe that Mr. Wray will go after President Trump and the cast of characters that followed him into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The “alt-right” organizations are sure that Mr. Wray will finally go after John Podesta, Huma Abedin, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and, ultimately Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Watching the testimony tells a different story.
Almost without fail, GOP members of the committee thanks Wray and his family for being “willing to sacrifice” by taking the position, while the Dems talked about how Mr. Wray is taking on this role at a “very contentious” and “challenging” time.
Friends and colleagues speak in glowing terms.
John Richter, a colleague and friend of Wray’s who has known him for more than 20 years, described Wray as “calm,” “principled” and “fearless.”
“He’s the right guy at the right time for the FBI,” Richter said. – PBS Newshour
Jeff Sessions likes him:
“The President asked us to look for an FBI director who has integrity, who understands and is committed to the rule of law, and who is dedicated to protecting the American people from crime, gangs, and terrorists,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement Wednesday. “We have found our man in Chris Wray.” – CNN
Even Larry Thompson:
“Chris Wray is super smart, a great lawyer and highly experienced. He will serve the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation well,” said former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson. “I’ve worked with Chris for a number of years and always had complete confidence in him. He simply doesn’t make mistakes. We’re very fortunate that he decided to re-enter public service.” – also CNN
Slate says: Christopher Wray Will Not Be Trump’s Stooge
So it seems apparent that no one is afraid of Christopher Wray.
If they aren’t worried, rest assured there is a reason.
During the testimony, there was talk of John Yoo of the famed “torture memo” and the “warrantless wiretap memo” of 2001. Christopher Wray was among those who threatened to resign over the re-authorization of the FISA provisions.
John Yoo has claimed that many people got copies of the aforementioned memos before they went into effect. In May 2004, Mr. Wray was asked about the abuse at Abu Ghraib and told the Senate Judiciary Committee and Sen. Patrick Leahy,
“My principal awareness of the abuse that you are describing, that you are referring to, is through the news media, and like you and like so many others, obviously I deplore any mistreatment.”
Yet there is proof that Mr. Wray was sent a letter (PDF) in February of that year by Mona Alderson from the Inspector General’s office to report “possible violations of federal criminal law” in refernce to the death of Manadal Al-Jamaidi at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
In this, Mr. Wray has shown a willingness to say whatever is necessary to cover his tracks. While that’s no different from the usual in Washington, it also shows that changes aren’t likely forthcoming.
In addition, Andrew McCabe, Acting FBI Director still has access to 650,000 emails that have not been released. As such, any “smoking gun” is still under his purview, which gives him the real power in the relationship.
Unless Chris Wray calls out McCabe in the first weeks, I expect future FBI Director Wray to conduct business as usual.
In short, Chris Wray comes from a connected background, so is an “insider,” has defended corporate offenders against the government, apparently knew of, and said nothing about US military abuses, and supports the reduction of US citizens’ rights under the Fourth Amendment.
Which is not what the nation needs.
Everyday Americans are unlikely to see any changes, therefore, as far as the power players in Washington and elsewhere are concerned, Christopher Wray is a safe bet.