Christopher Wray, King & Spalding. (File Photo)
President Donald Trump tweeted his choice for the new FBI director Wednesday morning, tapping former prosecutor Christopher Wray, now with Atlanta’s King & Spalding.
Wray had been under consideration for the job, but was not a sure bet until 7:44 a.m.
“I will be nominating Christopher A. Wray, a man of impeccable credentials, to be the new Director of the FBI. Details to follow,” Trump tweeted, sandwiched between tweets on the VA Accountability Act and a trip to Ohio.
Wray, a partner in King & Spalding’s Washington, D.C., and Atlanta offices who chairs the firm’s special matters and government investigations practice, has largely stayed out of politics while in private practice, instead working for individuals and companies under criminal investigation.
Past clients include Gov. Chris Christie during the George Washington Bridge lane closings investigation, Credit Suisse AG in a $2.6 billion criminal settlement with the Justice Department and two Johnson & Johnson subsidiaries in an $81 million settlement over off-label drug marketing.
“Chris is an outstanding lawyer and person with, as the president stated, impeccable integrity. He is the right person for this extremely important job,” said Wick Sollers, head of King & Spalding’s Washington office. Sollers said the firm has a “deep bench” in Wray’s practice group that will allow for a “smooth client transition.”
Bobby Burchfield, another King & Spalding partner who is now outside ethics adviser to the Trump companies, said he doesn’t foresee conflicts arising from Wray’s nomination.
“Chris has not worked on any of the matters that I’ve worked on as ethics adviser,” he said. Burchfield said he is not involved in any of the ongoing Russia-related investigations, and has not had contact with the president since the inauguration.
Wray would replace James Comey, whom Trump fired last month amid the FBI’s investigation into the administration’s contact with Russian officials. Wray and Comey worked closely together at the Justice Department in Washington from 2003 to 2005, when Comey was deputy U.S. attorney general and Wray was assistant attorney general in charge of the Criminal Division.
President George W. Bush nominated Wray for his Justice Department post, and the Senate confirmed him by unanimous consent. He served on the president’s Corporate Fraud Task Force and oversaw the Enron Task Force and other major fraud investigations, both around the country and internationally.
Several attorneys with ties at large firms had been considered for the FBI Director job in recent weeks, including Alice Fisher of Latham & Watkins and former Sen. Joe Lieberman of Kasowitz Benson Torres.
Fisher, who succeeded Wray as head of the criminal division, provided her own assessment:
Wray “cares deeply about the institution and already has strong relationships with the FBI. His background at the helm of the criminal division offered an excellent experience working on national security, white collar crime and a range of federal crimes as well as offering the privilege of working with the fantastic men and women of the FBI every day.”
She said Wray would “provide even keeled leadership” as FBI director.
Fisher withdrew from consideration for the FBI job, as did Lieberman. The former senator cited as his reason for withdrawing his association with the Kasowitz firm and Marc Kasowitz, who has taken on the personal representation of Trump in the Russia investigation. Lieberman said he wanted to “avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.”
From 1997 to 2001, Wray served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. As a prosecutor in Atlanta, he handled a variety of federal jury trials, grand jury investigations and appeals as lead counsel. He was a 2002 Daily Report “On the Rise” pick, a designation for promising lawyers under 40.
He served as a law clerk to Judge J. Michael Luttig of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit from 1992 to 1993. He graduated from Yale University in 1989 and received his law degree in 1992 from Yale Law School.
As the president tweeted, details to follow.
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