Donald Trump announced Wednesday morning (over Twitter, naturally), his nominee for FBI Director, Christopher Wray, none other than Chris Christie’s Bridgegate attorney, and a partner in a law firm that represents Russian oil companies. This from The New York Times:
The president revealed his decision in an early-morning tweet without alerting members of Congress in advance. It came on the eve of a blockbuster congressional hearing scheduled for Thursday in which James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director he ousted abruptly last month, was to testify about what he interpreted as improper attempts by Mr. Trump to pressure him.
Hours after the Twitter post, the White House followed up with an official statement in which Mr. Trump called Mr. Wray “an impeccably qualified individual,” citing his role in major fraud investigations and antiterrorism efforts at the Justice Department after the 9/11 attacks.
“I know that he will again serve his country as a fierce guardian of the law and model of integrity once the Senate confirms him to lead the F.B.I.,” Mr. Trump said in the statement.
Let’s take a look at this “fierce guardian of the law,” and “model of integrity,” shall we? Here’s what the ACLU says. Again, from NYT:
“Christopher Wray’s firm’s legal work for the Trump family, his history of partisan activity, as well as his history of defending Trump’s transition director during a criminal scandal makes us question his ability to lead the F.B.I. with the independence, evenhanded judgment, and commitment to the rule of law that the agency deserves,” said Faiz Shakir, the national political director of the American Civil Liberties Union, referring to Mr. Christie and the Bridgegate case.
Mr. Shakir said Mr. Wray would also have to “come clean about his role” in legal justifications for the use of torture during the Bush administration after the 9/11 attacks.
The “impeccably qualified individual” has as his biggest credit, besides being Christie’s scandal lawyer, a whopping two years service as head of the criminal division of the Justice Department from 2003 to 2005. And what do FBI agents say about this? Here’s what former FBI Director Ron Hosko told The Daily Beast:
“Unfortunately, the timing of this nomination—if this is what you call it, nomination by tweet—the timing of it looks as political as anything else today, because this was obviously timed to take a little bit of light and heat out of tomorrow’s show,” Hosko told The Daily Beast. “The first step in this president’s dealing with what could be the next FBI director is politics on display, day one, moment one.”
A retired FBI agent concurred.
“He’s trying to deflect,” the retired agent said. “Given the fact that you fired Comey, you should have a replacement named within a week or so. This has gone on for what, a month?”
“It’s a joke,” he added. “It’s an insult to every FBI agent, current and former.
So we’ve got two years relevant experience, Trump partisan, and torture advocate to run the FBI, an entity consisting of 40,000 agents stationed worldwide. Right. And here’s something else that’s interesting, are you ready for this? He’s got Russian connections of his own. Russian oil company connections, to be precise. USA Today gives us details:
Rosneft was prominently mentioned in the now infamous 35-page dossier prepared by former British MI6 agent Christopher Steele. The dossier claims that the CEO of Rosneft, Igor Sechin, offered candidate Donald Trump, through Trump’s campaign manager Carter Page, a 19% stake in the company in exchange for lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia. The dossier claims that the offer was made in July while Page was in Moscow.
Rosneft is also the company that had a $500 billion oil drilling joint-venture with Exxon in 2012, when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was Exxon’s CEO. However, the deal was nixed by President Obama in 2014, when he imposed the sanctions that crippled Russia’s ability to do business with U.S. companies. The lifting of sanctions by the Trump administration would enable Exxon to renew its joint venture agreement with Rosneft, and the law firm of King & Spalding could end up in the middle of the contract negotiations between those two companies.
And you think that representing Rosneft, and having that conflict of interests is bad? It gets worse. More from USA today:
The law firm’s representation of Gazprom raises even more serious conflict issues for Wray. Gazprom was a partner in RosUkrEnergo AG (“RUE”), which is controlled by Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash. He is under federal indictment in Chicago for racketeering charges, has had numerous financial dealings with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and is generally considered to be a member of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.
Can you believe it? And even if Wray didn’t personally work on these matters while at King & Spaulding, as a partner he and all of the other partners of the law firm have an actual or potential conflict of interest, which would prevent them from undertaking any representation of another client whose interests are clearly adverse to these two Russian oil companies. These conflict of interest rules still apply even after the lawyer leaves the law firm in question. So to bottom line it, we may have an “impeccably qualified” nominee who, in all reality, is probably going to have to recuse himself from an FBI investigation of Kremlin Gate for ethical reasons. And since he would be operating in his capacity as Director of the FBI, it’s not difficult to imagine that a recusal or worse yet, a failure to even acknowledge a conflict of interests could seriously compromise the validity and objectivity of any investigation by the FBI.
Remember the talk of “a cloud” hanging over Trump due to Comey not wanting to publicly exculpate him from any wrongdoing vis a vis Kremlin Gate? The cloud over Christopher Wray is nuclear winter by comparison. This man cannot be confirmed by the Senate as our next FBI Director. No way.