President Trump Selects New Leader For The FBI
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
President Trump has selected the person he wants to lead the FBI. In a tweet, the president says he'll name former prosecutor Christopher Wray to be his next FBI director. NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson joins us now. Hi, Carrie.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel.
MARTIN: President Trump says Christopher Wray has, quote, "impeccable credentials." What are they?
JOHNSON: Well, he's a former federal prosecutor in Atlanta. He was a Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration when he ran the criminal division and actually oversaw some big corporate fraud investigations like that in the Enron case. He was also in private practice for the last 12 years. Maybe his most famous client there was New Jersey Chris - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the Bridgegate matter.
MARTIN: Of course this announcement is coming just a day before James Comey testifies before a Senate panel. This very man, Christopher Wray, who actually worked with Comey at the Justice Department, would be replacing him if confirmed. So the timing of this is interesting, to say the least.
JOHNSON: Yeah, it's very curious and in fact may fit into Donald Trump's M.O. He can change the narrative a little bit in advance of the Comey testimony. Remember; the president said he'd been racing to find an FBI director before he left on his big overseas trip.
But many people took themselves out of the running, including former Senator Joe Lieberman, who said there was a conflict. FBI agents had come out wanting one of their own, a former FBI agent, as the pick. But Chris Wray is considered a very solid, mainstream choice, very popular guy.
MARTIN: So the big question - if he gets to a confirmation hearing, people will want to know - congressmen and women will want to know the level of his independence, right? That will be the sticking point here.
JOHNSON: Yeah. Chris Wray does have a strong law enforcement background, but this is a tough time for anybody to be confirmed to this job. Chris Wray's going to need to demonstrate his independence, his desire to carry on with the investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election and to figure out whether the Trump campaign had any involvement in that.
Both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are going to have a lot of questions about that and probably are going to try to extract some promises from this nominee about what he may do in office, what he might say to the president if the president attempts to lean on him the way former FBI Director James Comey has described to friends and associates in the recent past and may talk about all again - all over again tomorrow.
MARTIN: So what are the odds he gets through because he is, as you've articulated, kind of a mainstream choice. He's a guy with a lot of experience. Is he likely to get approved?
JOHNSON: Well, you know, he's a very popular choice among current and former Justice Department officials. This is a challenging time for anyone. And this rollout is very unusual. Remember that when James Comey was nominated to be the FBI director by President Barack Obama, they had a big ceremony at the White House. This was done via a tweet...
MARTIN: In a tweet, yeah.
JOHNSON: So we're a little bit far away from an actual hearing.
MARTIN: Confirmation hearing.
MARTIN: NPR's Carrie Johnson. Thanks so much.
JOHNSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.