FBI

Trump Wants to Replace James Comey with Someone a Lot Like Comey

A surprise tweet to announce a thoroughly conventional new FBI director

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Christopher Wray
Mike Theiler/EPA/Newscom

This morning President Donald Trump announced via Twitter that he's nominating Christopher Wray to run the FBI.

If Trump was attempting to draw attention away from fired FBI director James Comey's pending Senate Intelligence Committee testimony tomorrow, that wasn't the best tactic. News stories about Wray's nomination are reminding folks that Comey will be speaking tomorrow about the circumstances that led up to his termination, and speculating about whether he'll say that Trump tried to stop the FBI's investigation into his campaign's possible Russian ties.

Wray's previous background with the Department of Justice culminated in a stint as an assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Crime Division under President George W. Bush, from 2003 to 2005. His focus was on fighting corporate fraud. After he left, he went to the private law firm King & Spalding, where he now represents major corporations in conflicts with the feds. He also represented New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the Bridgegate scandal.

Wray is a conventional, nonpolitical pick that the establishment will likely support, and he knows how things are supposed to work. That's not surprising: Given the current controversies around the FBI, there's no way that Trump would be able to get a nominee with radically different views of justice past the Senate.

For those with a broad view of liberty and a concern about the long arm of federal law enforcement, Wray poses a lot of problems. But he offers at least one positive possibility too.

On the negative side of the ledger, Wray has been a major defender of the Patriot Act and the expansion of surveillance authority that it granted the federal intelligence community. In Senate Judiciary Committee testimony in 2003, he praised the act as a tool for fighting terrorism and pushed back against "myths" that the law would be used to authorize surveillance against U.S. citizens. It's interesting to read that old defense in light of what we know now. Remember when one of the bigger worries was that the feds would use the Patriot Act to track what library books we were checking out?

Wray also represented the federal government in Illinois v. Caballes, a 2004 Supreme Court case in which he defended the police use of drug-sniffing dogs in routine searches. The court ruled, 6-2, that such searches do not violate the Fourth Amendment.

In what might be a positive, Wray was also involved in the legal analysis of the secretive Stellar Wind program. This was the mass surveillance program that prompted Comey and Bob Mueller to threaten to resign if Bush attempted to reauthorize it without adding better legal safeguards protecting citizens. According to this report from 2013, Wray told Comey to let him know if he was going to resign, because Wray would join him.

So at the very least, Wray does believe in some limits on the government's domestic surveillance powers. That said, the limits he envisions are clearly not as strict as the limits that privacy and civil liberties groups would like.

Stay tuned tomorrow to see how much Comey is willing to reveal publicly about his conversations with Trump. (My prediction: There won't be any smoking guns, but some people will insist that there are anyway.) The latest big anonymous leak to hit the news says that Comey asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to be left alone with Trump because he didn't want any more conversations like the one where Trump allegedly tried to stop the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Trump also allegedly asked top intelligence officials if they would intervene with Comey to get him to back off.

NEXT: Trump will nominate Stephanos Bibas to the 3rd Circuit

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  1. Statist out,statist in.. Seems legit.

    1. BTW.I will be in Columbus ,OH tonight to see Tom Petty and Joe Walsh is opening. I am not driving ,as such,I will have a few with dinner on the way.

    2. What would a non-statist FBI director look like?

      1. What would a non-statist FBI director look like?

        A Unicorn?

        1. So really hot, but not crazy at all?

    1. He looks like the Principal in Breakfast Club.

      I can see him interrogating a perp:
      “Don’t mess with the bull young man, you’ll get the horns.”

  2. News stories about Wray’s nomination are reminding folks that Comey will be speaking tomorrow…

    I don’t think people needed reminding since Comey’s testimony is going to be the thing that finally brings down the Trump presidency.

    1. Wray also represented the federal government in Illinois v. Caballes, a 2004 Supreme Court case in which he defended the police use of drug-sniffing dogs in routine searches. The court ruled, 6-2, that such searches do not violate the Fourth Amendment.

      It’s not the drug-sniffing dogs that are the problem so much as the routine searches. Searches are not supposed to be routine, it’s one of the list of grievances against King George that justified our declaration of independence from that Nazi bastard.

      1. The drug war is the cause of all of this.

        1. It would be more accurate to say the drug war is the mechanism of all of this. The drug war is a means to an end, that end being power.

      2. so by definition of what you said routine searches in of themselves is strictly a violation.

        I would agree

    2. Every new day the usual suspects have a new story that is going to bring down the presidency. Half those stories fall apart or are based off of endless anonymous sources. How is anyone going to forget about Comey’s testimony when CNN has been pimping it with a countdown on their screen since Sunday.

      Since, ‘anonymous sources’ are now saying that Comey is not going to suggest Trump pressured him to end the investigation into Flynn, I want to know which reporters are going to be held accountable by their employers for this endless flurry of ‘anonymous sources’ that are obviously politically motivated.

  3. The Con Man is on the road today hawking his Trillion Dollar Infrastructure Plan.

    Its kind of like his border wall but even less likely.

    1. Thus…. “You didn’t build that.”

      1. Trump’s version is gonna be:
        “You didn’t build that. I did.”

        1. “… and it was so huge you wouldn’t believe it.”

          However, Chipper, one might foresee an easy quip: “You didn’t pay for that.”

    2. Trump will go as one of the best Presidents for the agency heads he nominated to reduce government and cut costs.

      We all know that Trump will not get Congress to authorize a Trillion dollars but if a transportation bill forces states to spend the money on actual roads repair and upgrades rather than all the non-road stuff transportation money is spent on, it will be a good thing.

      Of course, the best thing would be to cut DOT to only help states coordinate interstate repair and upgrades and let states pay for roads.

      1. “Of course, the best thing would be to cut DOT to only help states coordinate interstate repair and upgrades and let states pay for roads.”

        Because state run road and repair is a model of efficiency and transparency.

  4. I think Wray was a good choice.

    Accidents happen.

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