WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/CBS News/AP) — The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed Christopher Wray, President Donald Trump’s choice to replace James Comey as head of the FBI.
The Senate overwhelmingly approved Wray 92-5, concluding an afternoon of debate over his nomination that was as uneventful as Comey’s departure was chaotic.
Wray is a former high-ranking official in President George W. Bush’s Justice Department who oversaw investigations into corporate fraud. The 50-year-old Wray will inherit the FBI at a particularly challenging time given Trump’s firing of Comey, who was admired within the bureau.
Wray won unanimous support from the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, with Republicans and Democrats praising his promise never to let politics get in the way of the bureau’s mission.
“Beyond credentials, I believe Mr. Wray has the right view of the job,” said Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
Wray replaces Comey, who was abruptly fired by Trump in May amid an investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties to Trump’s campaign. The Judiciary panel is also investigating Russian interference.
As CBS2’s Jessica Layton reported, Trump denied the firing had anything to do with Russia.
At his confirmation hearing last month, Wray faced a wide array of questions on how he would handle running the FBI. He was questioned on everything from Russian meddling to being independent from the White House. He told senators he “sure as heck” would not offer a pledge of loyalty to the president.
Asserting his independence, he said, “My loyalty is to the Constitution and the rule of law. Those have been my guideposts throughout my career, and I will continue to adhere to them no matter the test.”
Democrats said Wray has the qualifications and independence to lead the bureau. The top Democrat on the panel, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), said Wray “has the strength and fortitude to stand up and do what it is right when tested.”
She added: “We need leaders with steel spines, not weak knees, and I am hopeful that Mr. Wray will be just such a leader.”
Wray has worked on white-collar crime and regulatory cases as a partner at the King & Spalding law firm. From May 2001 to May 2005, he held various high-ranking positions in the Justice Department, rising to the head of the criminal division in September 2003. He also served as principal associate deputy attorney general.
He was a federal prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office for the Northern District of Georgia from May 1997 to May 2001.
Wray had represented New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the Bridgegate scandal.
FBI directors are appointed to 10-year terms.
Meanwhile, Trump, his family and his attorneys cannot seem to dodge the fallout that follows a meeting Donald Trump Jr. took with a Russian lawyer just over a year ago. A new Washington Post report said Trump dictated his son’s statement to the press on the previously undisclosed meeting.
“There’s no inaccuracy in the statement,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “The president weighed in as any father would do based on the limited information he had.”
The statement to the New York Times called it a short, introductory meeting about the adoption of Russian children. But Trump Jr.’s emails showed he was promised potentially damaging information about the Clinton campaign.
The White House admission that the president was involved at all would appear to be a contradiction to what Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said.
“This was Donald Trump Jr. and his lawyers,” Sekulow said. “The President was not involved with it.”
The President has denied over and over that his campaign had improper contact with the Russian government. Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues to probe possible Russian election meddling.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)