Senate Confirms Christopher Wray as New FBI Director

The Senate easily confirmed President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the FBI on Tuesday, following the firing of James Comey earlier this year. Senators voted 92-5 on Christopher Wray’s nomination to lead the bureau. Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Ron Wyden, Jeff Merkley and Ed Markeyvoted against the confirmation, The Hill reports.

Tuesday’s vote caps off a largely low-drama confirmation process for Wray, who was approved unanimously by the Judiciary Committee late last month. Multiple congressional committees, as well as the Justice Department’s investigation overseen by special counsel Robert Mueller, are probing Russia’s election interference and potential ties between Trump campaign officials and Moscow.

Democrats praised Trump’s nominee, saying they believed he could be independent of the president and any attempts to politicize the bureau.

“It is really important that we have a strong FBI director. There can be no manipulation,” Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said ahead of the vote. “Special counsel Robert Mueller most be allowed to proceed with his investigation undisturbed,” she added.

Senator Richard Blumenthal added that he believes Wray would protect Mueller’s probe.

“I regret that he will be the FBI director only because it is the result of an abuse and improper firing of James Comey and the special counsel’s investigation of that firing as a potential obstruction of justice is well warranted,” Blumenthal said.

Trump has taken multiple shots at Mueller, prompting speculation that he could try to fire or direct the Justice Department to fire the former FBI director. Wray defended the investigation during this confirmation hearing before the Judiciary Committee.

“I do not consider Director Mueller to be on a witch hunt,” Wray said, when asked about the probe by Senator Lindsey Graham.Senators in both parties have warned Trump against firing Mueller, who is widely respected in Washington from his tenure as head of the FBI.

Senator Charles Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said Wray was “forthright” about how he was vetted for the top FBI job. “He made no loyalty pledges then, and I expect him never to make such a pledge,” Grassley said ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

Wray oversaw the criminal division of the FBI as an assistant attorney general under former President George W. Bush. He also represented New Jersey Governor Chris Christie during the Bridgegate scandal.

The vote on Wray’s nomination comes as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are negotiating a deal that would allow them to move a slate of Trump’s nominees before they leave for the August recess. McConnell predicted that it could end up being a “pretty robust package of nominations”.

Democrats have been slow-walking Trump’s nominees because of the months-long fight over repealing ObamaCare. In addition to a backlog of nominations, the Trump administration has also been slow to nominate individuals, The Hill comments.

Of 575 “key positions” tracked by The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service the Trump administration hasn’t formally nominated someone for 355 of those positions.In total, there are 165 nominations currently working their way through the Senate, according to the tracker.

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