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US President Trump's choice for FBI chief Wray vows 'impartial pursuit of justice'

Nominated as eighth director of the FBI, Christopher Wray has appeared before the Senate in a confirmation hearing. For the last decade he has been a partner at law firm King & Spalding, which has ties to the president.

Yale Law School graduate Christopher Wray appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday for a confirmation hearing to become director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for a 10-year term.

President Donald Trump nominated 50-year-old Wray to be FBI director on June 7, praising his choice as a "man of impeccable credentials."

"If I am given the honor of leading this agency, I will never allow the FBI's work to be driven by anything other than the facts, the law, and the impartial pursuit of justice. Period," Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday.

"There is only one right way to do this job, and that is with strict independence, by the book, playing it straight, faithful to the constitution, faithful to our laws, faithful to the best practices of the institution, without fear, without favoritism, and certainly without regard to any partisan political influence," the born New Yorker Wray told the committee.

Trump fired Comey during Russia probe

Trump  fired the previous FBI director James Comey on May 9, just days after Comey had defended his conduct before a Senate Judiciary Committee after a year of controversy over allegations Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton had used a personal email server while she was Secretary of State. While Comey did not recommend criminal charges against Clinton, he had called her "extremely careless."

Commenting in response to questioning, Wray said he would never hold a news conference, as Comey had done on the Clinton case. "I can’t imagine a situation where I would have given a press conference on an uncharged individual, much less talking in detail about it," Wray told the hearing.

On the alleged conversation between President Trump's son Donald and a Russian lawyer, Wray said it was something the "FBI would want to know about."

Under Comey's direction, the FBI opened an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the election in July 2016. President Trump later cited the "Russia thing" as his reason for firing Comey.

Former Mueller colleague 

Former FBI director Robert Mueller has been appointed independent prosecutor to oversee the investigation into any improper Russian involvement in last year's election. Questioned by Senator Dianne Feinstein about Mueller's investigation, Wray said he was committed to supporting the investigation in "whatever way is appropriate for me." Any attempts to tamper with the probe would be "unacceptable," Wray told the committee.

Wray also rejected Trump's characterization of Mueller's investigation as "the greatest Witch Hunt in political history."

Special investigator and former FBI director Robert Mueller

Special investigator and former FBI director Robert Mueller

"I do not consider Director Mueller to be on a witch hunt," Wray said under questioning from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Democratic Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, asked Wray what he would do if Trump asked him to take any steps that he believed were illegal. "First, I would try to talk him out of it," he said, before adding, "If that failed, I would resign."

King and Spalding law firm partner for a decade

There was some discussion ahead of the hearing if Wray would be asked if he worked on any cases related to the Donald J Trump Revocable Trust, for which King & Spalding partner Bobby Burchfield is ethics adviser. Another partner at the Atlanta firm, Gilbert Kaplan, was nominated in April as under secretary of commerce for international trade.

Wray has worked at the Atlanta law firm for nearly 12 years, representing major corporations and also New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, who was involved in the so-called "Bridgegate" affair and who recently made the headlines for sunning himself on a public beach that he had closed via a government shutdown.

Wray had worked with Mueller while he served in the US Justice Department from 2003 to 2005 under Republican President George W. Bush as an assistant attorney general in charge of its criminal division. The two men worked on the government's case in the Enron Corp fraud scandal in the 2000s.

jm/msh (Reuters, AP)

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