A Wray of Sunshine During a Challenging Time for the FBI
Big news from President Trump today: “I will be nominating Christopher A. Wray, a man of impeccable credentials, to be the new Director of the FBI. Details to follow.”
Meet the new nominee:
He graduated from Yale University in 1989 and received his law degree from Yale Law School in 1992. He then clerked for Judge J. Michael Luttig of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In 1993, Mr. Wray started working in private practice in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1997, he joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia. In 2001, he served at Main Justice as an Associate Deputy Attorney General and, later, as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General. In 2003, Mr. Wray was nominated by President George W. Bush as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division. He served in that position until 2005.
From his private-practice biography:
Christopher Wray is a litigation partner in the firm’s Washington, D.C., and Atlanta offices. Mr. Wray chairs the King & Spalding Special Matters and Government Investigations Practice Group, which represents companies, audit and special committees, and individuals in a variety of white-collar criminal and regulatory enforcement matters, parallel civil litigation, and internal corporate investigations. The group has been twice recognized by Law360 as “White-Collar Group of the Year” and described as “the premier firm in this practice area” by the U.S. News & World Report/Best Lawyers’ “Best Law Firms” survey.
As the Criminal Division’s head, Mr. Wray led investigations, prosecutions, and policy development in nearly all areas of federal criminal law, including securities fraud, healthcare fraud, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and trade sanctions violations, bank secrecy and money laundering offenses, public corruption, intellectual property piracy and cybercrime, and RICO. Mr. Wray was also integral to the DOJ’s response to the 9/11 attacks and played a key role in the oversight of legal and operational actions in the continuing war on terrorism. At the conclusion of his tenure in 2005, Mr. Wray received the Edmund J. Randolph Award, the Department’s highest award for public service and leadership.
One of Wray’s most recent jobs? Defending Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey in connection with investigations relating to the George Washington Bridge toll-lane closings.
Can Trump Really Be Fed Up with Sessions after Just Four Months?
President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have had a series of heated exchanges in the last several weeks after Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe, a source close to Sessions told CNN Tuesday.
A senior administration official said that at one point, Sessions expressed he would be willing to resign if Trump no longer wanted him there.
Tuesday afternoon, White House press secretary Sean Spicer declined to say whether Trump has confidence in Sessions.
“I have not had a discussion with him about that,” Spicer said.
As of 9 p.m. ET Tuesday, the White House still was unable to say whether or not the President backs his attorney general, a White House official said. The official said they wanted to avoid a repeat of what happened when Kellyanne Conway said Trump had confidence in Flynn only to find out hours later that the national security adviser had been pushed out.
Remember that huge confirmation fight over Sessions? That was four months ago! What’s the point of going through all that trouble if Trump is going to get into a fight with his attorney general and want to get rid of him by June? Yesterday, I mentioned that there are only three people nominated by Trump working in the Department of Justice. Do you think Trump will be better off with only two? And if Trump has this much friction with Sessions, one of his earliest and most enthusiastic supporters, who’s out there who he’s going to work with better?
If Trump did ditch Sessions, how long would it take for him to find a replacement?
Remember at the end of May, when communications director Mike Dubke resigned? Sean Spicer is filling that job and the press secretary job . . . but of course, we’ve heard a lot of rumors that Trump has contemplated firing Spicer, too.
Remember all the reports back in April that Trump was considering getting rid of both Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon?
There’s one argument of management that says you shouldn’t get rid of someone until you have a good plan to replace them or at least have someone else who can temporarily handle their duties.
Michael Dubke, the White House communications director, said he would step down, but four possible successors contacted by the White House declined to be considered, according to an associate of Mr. Trump who like others asked not to be identified discussing internal matters [my emphasis].
Is it any wonder this White House is having a hard time attracting people?
We discussed how Trump tweets out messages that directly contradict the arguments of his lawyers. He gave Spicer an hour’s warning about the decision to fire Comey. He didn’t even fire Comey face-to-face. And it’s Trump who apparently fumes that his staff is “incompetent.”
Speaking of Comey . . .
Presuming Comey’s testimony before Congress takes this course, doesn’t this take the steam out of the “impeach Trump over obstruction of justice” argument? Isn’t it safe to assume that the director of the FBI would recognize obstruction of justice when he saw it? What, are Democrats going to argue that Trump obstructed justice with Comey and the FBI director just didn’t notice?
There will be much in former FBI Director James Comey’s upcoming congressional testimony that will make the White House uncomfortable, but he will stop short of saying the president interfered with the agency’s probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a source familiar with Comey’s thinking told ABC News.
Although Comey has told associates he will not accuse the president of obstructing justice, he will dispute the president’s contention that Comey told him three times he is not under investigation.
Well, duh. Did anyone actually believe that?
The president allegedly said he hoped Comey would drop the Flynn investigation, a request that concerned Comey enough that he documented the conversation in a memo shortly after speaking with the president. In the memo, according to sources close to Comey who reviewed it, Trump said: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” during a February meeting.
The request made Comey uncomfortable, but the source tells ABC News that Comey has told associates he will not accuse the president of obstructing justice.
It’s not particularly wise or comfortable for a president to say out loud to the FBI director, I hope this doesn’t lead to a recommendation of an indictment. But it’s not quite criminal, either. As our Andy McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney, observed:
In this instance, moreover, Trump’s exertion of pressure was relatively mild: He did not deny Comey the freedom to exercise his own judgment; the president expressed hope that Comey’s judgment would be exercised in Flynn’s favor. Any of us who has ever had an overbearing boss is familiar with this kind of prodding. It can be unpleasant, even anxiety-inducing. But Comey is a big boy, he has a history of not being intimidated by presidents, and what we’re talking about here is not exactly the rack.
This is no doubt why Comey did not resign, and did not report to the Justice Department, his FBI staff, or Congress, that he had witnessed — indeed, been the victim in a sense — of an obstruction of an FBI investigation . . .
To constitute an obstruction offense, the administration of law has to be impeded with a corrupt state of mind. Your disagreement with an exercise of discretion does not turn it into corruption. It may be a lapse in judgment, even a serious lapse; but that doesn’t make it a crime.
ADDENDA: A well-written point from Michael Brendan Doughterty, one of our new guys:
There is a deeper reason why so many in the media reach for car accidents and lightning bolts and other disasters that have no moral content. They know that deep down they really don’t share a society with the Islamic extremists. Their fellow citizenship exists only on paper, not as a social reality, and it gives them no authority to speak into that subculture, nor any hope of using their public platforms to reason with its members. They have admitted by this evasion the very fact that they wish no one to acknowledge: that these fellow citizens are alien to us.