FBI

Twenty Questions for Christopher Wray

By Benjamin Wittes
Monday, July 10, 2017, 7:30 AM

Christopher Wray will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week as the committee considers his nomination to be the new Director of the FBI. Here are twenty questions I urge senators to ask Wray. I suggest them not because I oppose Wray’s nomination—on which I have not yet formed a firm opinion—but because given the extraordinary circumstances that led to his nomination, it seems to me incumbent on the Senate to establish exactly how Wray regards the job in relation to the President who nominated him for it:

  1. Have you ever met privately with President Trump? If so, how many times and what were the circumstances of any such private meetings?
  2. Were you ever asked for any kind of pledge or promise of loyalty to President Trump, either by him or by anyone working for him or on his behalf, in the course of the process of your selection as the new FBI Director? Was the desirability of such a pledge or the issue of personal or political loyalty ever raised with you in any way? If so, how did you respond and what, if any, commitments did you give? If not, what will you do if you are ever asked for such a commitment in the future, and will you commit to informing this committee of any such request?

  3. Were you ever asked any questions or were any suggestions made, either by President Trump or by anyone working for him or on his behalf, that made you uncomfortable or struck you as inappropriate in the course of the process of your selection or nomination as FBI Director? If so, what were the questions or suggestions, and how did you respond?

       

  4. Has President Trump, or anyone working for him or on his behalf, discussed with you at any time and in any manner the investigations of (1) Russian interference in the 2016 election, (2) alleged coordination between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, or (3) any associated investigation of obstruction of justice or other matters? If so, how did you respond? If not, what will you do if these matters are ever raised with you in the future, and will you commit to informing this committee?
  5. Has President Trump, or anyone working for him or on his behalf, discussed with you any other investigation pending before the FBI or before any other federal law enforcement agency? If so, how did you respond? If not, what will you do if such matters are ever raised with you in the future, and will you commit to informing this committee?

  6. Has President Trump, or anyone working for him or on his behalf, discussed with you any of the alleged deficiencies in James Comey’s performance of his duties or leadership of the FBI that supposedly led to his dismissal?  

  7. Has President Trump, or anyone working for him or on his behalf, discussed with you the administration’s expectations as to your performance as Director of the FBI or how it would or should differ from that of James Comey?

  8. What is your view of the proper relationship between the FBI and the Department of Justice leadership, particularly the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General, both with respect to chain of command and also with respect to the distinction between the investigative and prosecutorial functions? What is the proper role of the FBI Director in prosecutorial decisions, and how much independence of the Justice Department leadership should the Director have in the conduct of investigations?

  9. Has President Trump, or anyone working for him or on his behalf, discussed with you the performance of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel? Has President Trump, or anyone working for him or on his behalf, discussed with you the possibility of removing Robert Mueller as Special Counsel? If so, how did you respond? If not, what will do you if this matter is raised with you in the future, and will you commit to informing this committee?

  10. What is your view of the integrity of Special Counsel Robert Mueller? Do you believe his investigation is a “witch hunt,” as the President has tweeted?

  11. What is your view of President Trump’s statements suggesting that members of federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies engaged in illegal wiretapping of him and, more generally, his statements challenging the integrity of federal law enforcement?

  12. In your opinion, was the removal of James Comey related in any way to the President’s concerns regarding the Russia investigation? Or, in the alternative, do you believe the President fired Comey because of his handling of the Clinton email matters, because the FBI was in some kind of turmoil or chaos, or because Comey is a “nut job"? What is the basis for your opinion as to the reason for Comey's removal?

  13. Does James Comey’s testimony as to the pressure he felt from President Trump on investigative matters while he was in office give you any anxiety about your own ability to function effectively in the Director’s role? If not, why are you confident that you will not face similar pressure with respect to investigative matters concerning the President and his personal interests—or, for that matter, other investigative matters in which he might take an interest?

  14. Does James Comey’s sudden termination give you any anxiety about your own ability to function effectively in the Director’s role? If not, why are you confident that you will not face a similarly abrupt loss of presidential confidence when you do not handle some specific investigative matter in a fashion congenial to the President and his personal interests? Moreover, how will you ensure that fear of termination for political reasons does not in any way affect your decisionmaking in office?

  15. Given the circumstances of your appointment and your predecessor’s dismissal, do you believe that you will enter office with the confidence of the FBI’s workforce? And if not, what will you do to build trust with the workforce?

  16. Given the circumstances of your appointment and your predecessor’s dismissal, why should the next President respect the statutory ten-year nature of your term of office? What function does the ten-year term serve, in your view?

  17. What is your vision of the independence of law enforcement from the incumbent administration on investigative matters? Do you think President Trump shares this vision?

  18. What are your priorities for the FBI’s future over your time in office? Do you think President Trump shares these priorities?

  19. Given the circumstances of your appointment, your predecessor’s dismissal, and the President’s behavior toward him, why should a member of this committee have confidence in your ability to exercise independence in office?

  20. Given the circumstances of your appointment, your predecessor’s dismissal, and the President’s behavior toward him, why do you want to be Director of the FBI?