Christopher Wray, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is one of the central figures in the furor over the release of the so-called “Nunes memo.”
Wray took over as FBI director after U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly fired James Comey on May 9, 2017. Two days after the firing, Trump told NBC News that he was thinking of, in his words, “this Russia thing” when he made the decision regarding Comey.
Trump nominated Wray for the job four weeks later.
Born in New York City in 1966, Wray attended prestigious private schools and earned his bachelor’s and law degrees at Yale University, where he served as executive editor of the Yale Law Journal.
Wray began his career with a federal judge clerkship in 1992, before going to work for an Atlanta-based private law firm. Five years after finishing his law degree, he took a government service position as assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.
He joined the U.S. Department of Justice in 2001 and by 2003 took charge of the department’s criminal division, overseeing issues such as securities fraud, public corruption, and piracy of intellectual property. Among those he prosecuted for corruption were energy giant Enron and lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Wray was among a group of top prosecutors who threatened to resign in 2004 over the extension of illegal wiretaps conducted by the George W. Bush administration.
He returned to private practice a year later. At the end of his tenure with the Department of Justice, he was given the agency’s highest award for leadership and public service.
While working as a litigation partner with the law firm King & Spalding from 2005 to 2017, Wray represented New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in 2014. The governor’s administration was accused of illegally closing off the entrances to a bridge leading to Manhattan as part of a political revenge plot. While Christie escaped charges, several of his former aides were sentenced to prison terms.
Wray was tapped last year to succeed James Comey as head of the FBI. During his confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate, Wray testified he would not bend to White House influence. He said he would resign if asked to do something immoral.
When asked for his reaction to Trump’s statement that the Russia investigation amount to a “witch hunt,” he stated that he did not agree.
The Senate confirmed Wray by a vote of 92 to 5. And when he was sworn into office in August of 2017, Trump did not attend the ceremony.
Now, with the president signing off on the release of the Nunes memo, Wray is in the spotlight. The Washington Post reports he warned the White House privately not to release the memo, which has raised concern about the exposure of sensitive security information, as well as what the FBI said were serious concerns about the memo’s accuracy.
In an uncharacteristically confrontational statement, the FBI said Wednesday it was given “a limited opportunity to review this memo” one day before the House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines to release it. The statement continued, “We have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
President Trump has been criticizing the agency for months, saying the FBI’s reputation is “in tatters” without directly criticizing Wray. It remains to be seen how fallout over the Nunes memo could affect the FBI director, less than a year into his job.