US President Donald Trump on Wednesday named Christopher Wray, a former Justice Department official who has prosecuted and defended white-collar crime cases, as the new chief of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The announcement came a month after Trump fired James Comey from the key post amid tensions over an FBI probe into possible ties between Trump’s election campaign team and Russia.
The appointment was made public as Comey was preparing to give eagerly anticipated public testimony before a Senate committee.
In a statement, Trump called Wray “an impeccably qualified individual” who will serve “as a fierce guardian of the law and model of integrity”, Reuters reports.
The White House has given shifting explanations on why Trump fired Comey during an FBI investigation into whether Trump campaign associates colluded with the Russians to help him with the 2016 presidential election.
Trump has said he was thinking of “this Russia thing” in dismissing Comey.
In written testimony released by the panel on Wednesday, Comey said Trump told him on Jan. 27 that “I expect loyalty,” and in a Feb. 14 meeting asked him to back off from a probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s ties with Russia.
Wray, who must be confirmed to the post by the Senate, and Comey served together in the Justice Department under former President George Bush, and both worked on the government’s case in the Enron Corp fraud scandal in the early to mid-2000s.
Trump announced his selection of Wray in a surprise, early-morning Twitter message.
Some Democratic lawmakers said the president’s timing seemed intended to distract from Comey’s scheduled testimony.
“It is imperative that the next FBI director be of unimpeachable integrity and independence,” Reuters quoted Nancy Pelosi, the top House of Representatives Democrat, as saying.
“In light of the president’s constant efforts to block the truth, the nomination of Christopher Wray should be subject to the utmost scrutiny.”
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