5 things to know about Trump’s FBI pick Christopher Wray

After a tumultuous search process, President Donald Trump said Wednesday he plans to nominate former senior Justice Department official Christopher Wray to be the next director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Assuming Wray, 50, wins Senate confirmation, he would fill the vacancy created by Trump’s abrupt and earth-shaking firing of James Comey from the FBI chief post last month.

Here are five things to know about Wray:

1. He was Christie’s lawyer in the Bridgegate scandal

Wray’s inside track for the job can likely be traced to his work for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was a key supporter of Trump during last year’s campaign and remains in close touch with the president. As a criminal defense lawyer in private practice, Wray represented Christie in the federal investigation into efforts by Christie’s allies to exact political retribution on a mayor by slowing traffic across a critical bridge.

Christie has claimed he had no knowledge of the alleged scheme, but three Christie aides or allies were convicted for their involvement.

With Wray’s assistance, Christie has faced no charges in Bridgegate. Wray is said to remain in possession of a cellphone Christie used to text with others during a key state hearing into Bridgegate. The phone was studied during a probe Christie commissioned into the affair but went missing for a time before it was revealed that Wray was in possession of it.

2. Wray was a top DOJ official after 9/11

Wray took a job at Justice Department headquarters in May 2001, working as an aide to Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson. Wray was later promoted to the principal deputy post in that office.

Due to that timing, Wray was deeply involved in a variety of issues related to the Bush administration’s response to the September 11, 2001 attacks. He could face questioning at his confirmation hearing about some of the more controversial tactics used during that period, such as widespread detention of foreigners from majority-Muslim countries.

"We have never, as you know, experienced anything as savage and cowardly as the attack that occurred on September 11th, and we must do everything within our power, within the Constitution and the law, to make sure it never happens again," Wray said at a 2003 Senate hearing on his elevation to assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

In that post, Wray also got broad experience overseeing major criminal investigations and prosecutions, like the Justice Department’s Enron Task Force that pursued fraud at the failed energy-trading giant.

A former U.S. attorney in northern Virginia, Neil MacBride, called Wray a "great pick" for the FBI job and he brings "deep law enforcement and prosecutorial background, great judgment [and] even temperament."

"I’ve known him and worked with him for two decades, in both his private and public sector stints, know he has enormous respect for the Justice Department and believe he will bring the independence and strength needed in this challenging environment," MacBride said.

Larry Thompson, a former deputy attorney general who brought Wray to Washington and also battled with him as a private defense lawyer, said Wray will serve the DOJ and FBI well in the new role. "I’ve worked with Chris for a number of years and always had complete confidence in him. He simply doesn’t make mistakes," Thompson said.

3. He has ties to a Mueller probe aide

One of the leaders of that Enron Task Force, Andrew Weissman, is now a top deputy to Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor recently named to oversee the ongoing probes into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

As head of the FBI, Wray will likely have to interact with Mueller’s operation, which is expected to lean heavily on the investigative work the bureau has already done.

Another question Wray could face at his hearing is whether, as a Trump appointee, he would plan to be involved in the investigation or cede his role to a career FBI official.

4. He is a double Yale grad

Wray attended Yale University and Yale Law School, where he served as a research assistant to a well-known expert on law and religion: Professor Stephen Carter.

"We will excuse him for attending Yale University for both his undergraduate studies and his legal education, but he saw the light and came back to Georgia," Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) quipped about Wray at his 2003 confirmation hearing. (Though Wray is treated as a Georgian, official records show he was born in New York City.)

Before returning to Georgia after law school, Wray clerked for Judge Michael Luttig, a prominent conservative on the 4th Circuit.

Wray then worked for four years at King & Spalding, his current firm, before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta as a prosecutor in 1997. He handled drug, gun, counterfeit money and corruption cases, including a prosecution of a prominent investment banker and the City of Atlanta’s chief investment officer. Both were convicted on numerous counts.

Wray also prosecuted a string of church fires that caused considerable alarm across much of the south. The defendant, who called himself a “missionary of Lucifer," pled guilty to arson but pursued an appeal, which was ultimately unsuccessful.

5. Wray hails from a family of lawyers

"This is a young man who has the law in his blood. His father, his uncle, his grandfather, and his grandmother were all lawyers," Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) said at the same hearing.

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