Christopher Wray: What do we know about Trump's pick to be FBI director?

Trump picks Christopher Wray

President Trump tweeted Wednesday that he will nominate Christopher Wray to become the FBI's new director, after firing James Comey last month

The president said Wray is "a man of impeccable credentials." In Cincinnati, the president said Wray "is gonna be great," but has not further elaborated on him. 

So what do we know about the soon-to-be-named director?

A graduate of Yale University and Yale Law School, Wray is a former Justice Department official who served as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's personal lawyer during the George Washington Bridge lane-closing investigation. Two former Christie aides were convicted of plotting to close bridge lanes to punish a Democratic mayor who wouldn't endorse the Republican governor.

Who is Christopher Wray, President Trump's nominee for FBI director?

Wray and Christie met when Christie was the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey during the Bush administration. The New Jersey governor praised Wray during a news conference last week, calling him an "outstanding lawyer" with "absolute integrity and honesty." And he said the president "certainly would not be making a mistake if he asked Chris Wray to be FBI director."

In private practice at the Atlanta office of King & Spalding LLC, Wray specializes in white collar and internal investigations. In 2015, the firm consulted with Russian energy giant Rosneft. There is one curious thing in Wray's CV on the King & Spalding website. A 2016 version of the site shows that among those he had recently represented was "An energy company president in a criminal investigation by Russian authorities." The 2017 version of the website omits this line. 

Under President George W. Bush, Wray served as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department's criminal division, and oversaw the Enron Task Force, which was created to investigate the Enron scandal. He also helped reorient the criminal division toward counterterrorism missions after the 9/11 attacks. 

While working in the Justice Department, Wray also crossed paths with ousted FBI director James Comey, and developed a close working relationship with newly appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller. "[Mueller] has a strong moral compass and I think that the great thing about strong moral compasses is that they don't have to hand-wring," Wray has said of Mueller. "When they're uncomfortable, they know what they have to do."

Wray was at the Justice Department when Comey, Mueller and other top officials at the FBI and Justice Department were at a standoff with the White House, in particular, Vice President Cheney, over the renewal of an NSA surveillance program, according to Garrett Graff, writing for Wired. Comey believed the program was unconstitutional and would not approve it. Top officials at the FBI and DOJ were drafting resignation letters over the issue. Wray, according to Graff, told Comey, "Look, I don't know what's going on, but before you guys all pull the rip cords, please give me a heads-up so I can jump with you." The issue was resolved by President Bush, who allowed changes to be made to the program. 

Special Report: Trump nominates Christopher Wray as FBI director

Wray has also been an active political donor, giving tens of thousands to political candidates and PACs over the years, according to data collected by OpenSecrets.org. He has mostly donated to Republicans such as then-GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney in 2012, John McCain in 2008, as well as the late Fred Thompson in 2007, and Georgia Republicans like Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Sen. Jonny Isakson and then-Rep. Tom Price.

Comey has also given smaller amounts to then-Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2000. However, he did not donate to Mr. Trump.

Still, Democrats, as well as Republicans, are praising Wray's selection. "Chris Wray is a great choice for FBI Director," Mary Jo White, who ran the Securities and Exchange Commission under President Obama, said in a statement. "He is smart, independent and has a very impressive track record of service and experience in the Department of Justice where he worked closely with the FBI and was widely regarded as a strong leader." 

Wray is considered to be a traditional choice for FBI director, as opposed to some of the candidates Mr. Trump considered, including former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, who would have faced a challenging confirmation process.

FBI officials told CBS News on Wednesday that the Bureau was relieved Wray had been picked instead of an elected politician, although some worry, given the circumstances surrounding Comey's firing, that he may prove more loyal to the president than the Bureau.

Wray was not part of the original short list as potential FBI directors being considered by the White House. Mr. Trump recently interviewed Wray and his name began to emerge as strong possibility last week.