08.02.17

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On the Confirmation of Christopher Wray to be Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

I supported Christopher Wray’s nomination in the Judiciary Committee to be the next Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  I did so because I believe he is qualified and—critically—I believe he will stand up for the independence of the FBI.  Such independence has never been more at risk.  We need a new FBI Director because the president fired the last one, Director James Comey.  And his reason for doing so was disturbing: to take pressure off of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in our democracy and connections between the Kremlin and the president’s campaign and administration.  This came after the president first sought Director Comey’s loyalty, and then pressured him to terminate the ongoing investigation into Michael Flynn.

Time and again, this White House has shown it does not respect boundaries between politics and law enforcement.  The president routinely attacks the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, special counsel, Acting FBI Director, former FBI Director, and countless others.  Each attack seems more outrageous than the last.  Attorney General Sessions was required by Justice Department regulations to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.  It was not discretionary.  The president launched a week-long Twitter tirade against him anyway, stating he would have never hired the Attorney General had he known he would recuse himself.  In other words, the president would not have hired our nation’s top law enforcement official had the president known he would actually follow the law. 

Make no mistake, whether he asks for it or not, the president will demand loyalty from Mr. Wray.  And he has shown there are consequences for those who dare to maintain independence and follow the rules.  Through Twitter attacks and firing top officials, the President is attempting to intimidate and influence the behavior of our nation’s top law enforcement officials.

This is not normal. And we should not treat it as such. Nor should these officials be solely responsible for protecting the independence of our law enforcement institutions.  All of us, Republican and Democrat, must stand up to a president who seems to only stand for himself, and whose relentless attacks on the rule of law harm us all.

The next FBI Director will face many tests of integrity.  He will be forced to make decisions, like Director Comey, that will test his commitment to the rule of law.  I believed Mr. Wray when he testified in response to my question that he would sooner resign than follow an unlawful or unethical order from the White House.  While he served as the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division in 2004, the White House attempted to authorize a warrantless surveillance program over the Attorney General’s objections.  Mr. Wray offered to resign in solidarity with then-FBI Director Robert Mueller and then-Deputy Attorney General Comey.  He takes his integrity, and the integrity of our nation’s law enforcement agencies, seriously. 

I expect Mr. Wray will tenaciously guard the independence of the FBI.  And I will vote to confirm his nomination today

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