Is FBI Director Chris Wray A True Nonpartisan?


Depending on your news outlet of preference, yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing of Christopher Wray, Donald Trump’s appointee as director of the FBI, was many different things.

If you read the Washington Examiner or watch Fox News, you likely have heard that Wray is a man who commands the highest level of respect in legal as well as political circles, with experience and accolades to match the magnitude of his prospective position atop the FBI.

If you are more inclined to keep Politico in your Chrome bookmarks tab or still subscribe to the New York Times, you likely put more stock in Wray’s vow to remain independent when it comes to investigations involving the ongoing Russia saga.

Regardless of the outlet, you probably heard mostly good things. But in politics, a positive consensus tends not to last very long, and a clearer picture of how FBI director Chris Wray will be assessed going forward requires a shifting lens, one that views complex issues from both the left and the right.

The Facts About Wray

Some things cannot be disputed, even in American politics circa 2017. As it pertains to Christopher Wray, nobody is calling into question the fact that he was born on December 17, 1966, in New York City, the son of a prominent lawyer named Cecil Wray.

His alma mater, Yale, confirms the record that Wray graduated cum laude then went on to attain a degree from its prestigious law school. After approximately five years clerking and beginning his career in the industry, Wray began his government service as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, in 1997.

Notably, Wray was nominated in 2003 as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, having joined the DOJ in 2001 as Associate Deputy Attorney General. Wray then served until 2005 as a subordinate to James Comey, then Deputy AG.

According to the Justice Department, Wray specializes in white collar law, including but not limited to fraud. A master of internal investigations, Wray was on the task force that ultimately recommended criminal charges for prominent members of natural gas seller Enron in the mid-2000s.

In 2005 Wray joined private law firm King & Spalding, where he has worked since, taking on clients in the private and public sectors, both international and domestic.

The Left Will Love: Wray’s Comments About Russia, Remaining Objective

By all accounts, Wray was nothing short of impressive in his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. He gave answers that were measured, yet reassuring in their conviction when delivered.

Even when run through what has become the routine, self-righteous morality-test questionnaire delivered by overpaid partisan stalwarts, Wray emerged unscathed, allaying ersatz skepticism with persistent charm and unquestionable rationale.

No Senate Judiciary Committee vetting would be complete without the resident sheriff of Affairs Pertaining to Putin, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, thoroughly questioning Wray’s ability to do his job objectively.

Yet, Wray’s insistence upon remaining above partisan influence left Feinstein virtually speechless, appearing almost smitten by Wray’s composure and amiability:

That was not the only answer Wray gave, seemingly genuinely, that typified what members on both sides of the aisle hoped to hear:

“I will not allow the FBI’s work to be driven by anything other than the facts, the law, and the impartial pursuit of justice, period.”

“I believe to my core that there is only one right way to do this job. And that is with strict independence, by the book, playing it straight, faithful to the Constitution, faithful to our laws, and faithful to the best practices of the institution, without fear, without favoritism, and certainly without regard to any partisan political influence.”

“My loyalty is to the Constitution and to the rule of law. Those have been my guideposts throughout my career, and I will continue to adhere to them, no matter the test.”

Wray also mentioned that he would not characterize the investigation as a “witch-hunt,” though this virtually meaningless answer is the result of insignificant lime-lighting by the typically chatty Lindsay Graham.

Depending on how you view the Russia-Trump narrative, these comments, and Wray’s seeming commitment to remaining independent, may exhilarate or frighten you. Whether myth or well-cleansed cover-up, by his comments Wray appears to be the man that may lay the narrative to rest, for better or worse.

The Right Will Love: Wray’s Professional Ties

As a member of the Department of Justice, Wray received a swift promotion from President George W. Bush, becoming an integral part of legal matters at the height of American’s recent involvement in the Middle East. Some would say that a certain allegiance may be borne of such circumstances.

As a lawyer in the private sector, Wray consistently represented members of big business, the same sectors of industry that are frequently demonized as bastions of conservative greed. Some would say that the tasks inherent to being a top-flight lawyer for such firms and individuals may garner a certain level of empathy.

And, Wray’s acceptance of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s request that he represent him in the Bridgegate scandal, successfully if possible, would indicate a certain allegiance to the party. He was successful in his defense of Christie, by the way. If only Wray could have represented Christie’s fall-people…

There are no apparent red flags regarding Wray’s potential for corruptibility in favor of the left, which is more than can be said for many supposed independents.

Yet, these links to the right, however tangential or inconsequential, contribute to another predictable development.

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