Who Is Christopher Wray?
Born in New York City in 1966, Christopher Wray spent his early career at a law firm before becoming an assistant U.S. attorney in 1997. After joining the U.S. Department of Justice in 2001, he oversaw operations amid a shift to combat the growing threat of terrorism, and later was named head of the department's Criminal Division. Wray returned to private practice in 2005, where his high-profile clients included New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. In June 2017, he was nominated by President Donald Trump to succeed James Comey as FBI director.
Early Years and Legal Career
Christopher Asher Wray was born on December 17, 1966, in New York City. The son of two successful professionals – his dad, Cecil, became a partner at the Debevoise & Plimpton law firm and mom, Gilda, the senior program officer of the Charles Hayden Foundation – Wray was sent to the prestigious Phillips Academy in Massachusetts.
Wray moved on to Yale University, where he rowed with the crew team and met his future wife, Helen, before earning his bachelor's in philosophy in 1989. He then enrolled at Yale Law School, serving as executive editor of the Yale Law Journal, before graduating in 1992.
That year, Wray began his legal career as a clerk for Judge J. Michael Luttig of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. He then spent four years with the Atlanta-based firm of King & Spalding, before moving on to government service in 1997 as assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.
Not long after joining the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2001 as associate deputy attorney general, Wray was thrust into the chaos that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Named principal associate deputy attorney general, he oversaw legal and operational actions as the department adjusted to the demands required to combat terrorist activity.
In 2003, the 36-year-old became the youngest ever to take charge of the DOJ's Criminal Division as assistant attorney general. In this role, he oversaw matters of securities fraud, public corruption and intellectual property piracy, pursuing cases against such high-profile defendants as scandal-plagued energy giant Enron and lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
In 2004, Wray was among the group of top-level prosecutors, which included Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Deputy FBI Director James Comey, that threatened to resign over the extension of the George W. Bush administration's illegal wiretaps. Also around this time, he was notified of abuses that led to the death of an inmate at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, though he later downplayed any knowledge of such abuses while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
At the end of his tenure in 2005, Wray was named recipient of the Edmund J. Randolph Award to honor his public service and leadership.
Return to Private Practice
In 2005, Wray returned to the offices of King & Spalding. Tasked with leading its Special Matters Government and Internal Investigations practice, he advised major health care, energy and telecommunications companies in the areas of regulatory enforcement, white-collar criminal cases and crisis management.
In 2014, Wray took charge of efforts to defend New Jersey Governor Chris Christie amid the scandal of "Bridgegate," in which the governor's administration allegedly closed several already crowded entrance lanes to the George Washington Bridge as part of political payback. Christie ultimately escaped charges, while some of his former aides wound up in prison.
Almost one month after firing Comey from the role of FBI director, President Donald Trump on June 7 announced his intention to nominate Wray as the replacement.
For some, the nomination of a respected federal prosecutor was welcomed, following Trump's hints at tapping a politician like longtime Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman for the position. For others, Wray's record at the DOJ when torture revelations came to light presented a concern, as did Trump's business connections with King & Spalding.
At his confirmation hearing in July, Wray asserted that he would remain independent from White House influence. Among his notable comments, he disagreed with Trump's claims that investigations into a possible collusion between his 2016 presidential campaign and Russian agents amounted to a "witch hunt," and said he would resign if pressed to do something he deemed immoral.
On August 1, 2017, Wray was overwhelmingly confirmed as FBI director by the Senate in a vote of 92 to 5.
“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,” Wray told senators during his confirmation hearing, adding, “I fully understand that this is not a job for the faint of heart. I can assure this committee, I am not faint of heart.”
Wray remained mostly quiet over his first few months into the job, even as the president called into question the FBI's impartiality over its previous handling of the Hillary Clinton email saga, and its current involvement in special counsel Mueller's investigation of ties between the Trump campaign and Russian agents.
However, a memo spearheaded by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes in early 2018 threatened to torpedo the relationship between the FBI director and the White House. According to the memo, the FBI and DOJ had relied on information from a dossier, whose author was commissioned by the Democratic Party to find damaging information on Trump, to attain a wiretap warrant for one of his former associates. Despite Wray's concern that the release of the memo could compromise national security interests, Trump gave the go-ahead for House Republicans to make it available to the public.
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