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New Trump FBI pick represented Christie in Bridgegate case

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Lawrence Jackson / AP (2005)

Then-Assistant Attorney General Christopher Wray speaks in 2005 at a press conference at the Justice Department in Washington. President Donald Trump has picked Wray, a longtime lawyer and former Justice Department official, to be the next FBI director.

Updated Wednesday, June 7, 2017 | 9:25 a.m.

WASHINGTON — Christopher Wray, a lawyer with a strong law enforcement background who represented New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the Bridgegate scandal, was announced Wednesday as President Donald Trump's pick to head the FBI.

In an early morning two-sentence tweet, Trump said he intended to nominate Wray, a high-ranking official in George W. Bush's Justice Department. That word 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 that dismissal.

Trump called Wray "a man of impeccable credentials," but offered no more information about the selection, except to end the tweet with "Details to follow."

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Wray seemed like "the perfect kind of person" for the important job. Ryan said he favored a "career person" and that Wray "certainly seems to fit that bill."

Wray rose to head the department's criminal division in the Bush administration and oversaw investigations into corporate fraud, at a 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.

Given his background, Wray was a traditional choice for the FBI post. Trump had entertained current and former politicians for the role, including former Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn. Though favored by Trump, Lieberman would have faced a challenging confirmation process; he pulled his name from consideration.

Comey, during his upcoming appearance before the Senate Intelligence committee, is expected to describe his encounters with Trump in the weeks before his May 9 firing. 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 was the personal lawyer for Republican Christie in the George Washington Bridge 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" a while earlier, 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.

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