Dems: Trump’s FBI nominee must prove he is independent

Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., speaks to WEYI from Capitol Hill on June 8, 2017. (SBG)

House Democrats were hesitant to pass judgment on President Donald Trump’s choice for FBI director Wednesday after he announced on Twitter that he intends to nominate former federal prosecutor Christopher Wray.

“From what I’ve seen of his resume, he appears to be qualified,” said Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., but he expects the full Senate confirmation process will determine whether Wray is fit to replace James Comey, who Trump fired last month.

After Trump acknowledged he was frustrated by Comey’s handling of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, Democrats are concerned that the new director will not want to stand up to the president if a conflict arises.

“Mr. Wray’s willingness to be an independent director of the FBI is going to be I think the most important prerequisite to his confirmation,” Kildee said.

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., expressed similar concerns, noting that a partner at Wray’s law firm reportedly oversees Trump’s assets and Wray recently represented Trump ally New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

“What this means is there has to be a very careful vetting… We just have to make sure that he will be independent,” she said.

Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Mich., does not know Wray personally, but he praised his past investigative and prosecutorial experience. He urged the Senate to move quickly confirm the president’s nominee.

“To have that position vacant I don’t think is a good idea,” Mitchell said.

Trump announced Wray’s nomination the day before Comey is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The highly anticipated hearing is expected to address reports that Comey felt Trump inappropriately pressured him to end the FBI’s investigation of former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Kildee said he is eager to hear Comey’s description of those conversations, because the details that have been reported about Trump’s conduct are troubling.

“That could constitute obstruction of justice,” he said of Trump reportedly interfering with the investigation.

“It’s a line that no president should ever cross and I’m really anxious to see what Mr. Comey has to say about that.”

According to Frankel, there are many issues surrounding Comey’s unexpected firing that remain unresolved.

“It’s very, very important that the Senate get to the truth… What was behind his firing? Did President Trump try to influence him or pressure him?” she said.

Republicans are also hoping Comey’s testimony puts some questions to rest after weeks of leaked information and rumors.

“Your guess on what we’ll hear from former Director Comey is as good as mine,” Mitchell said.

Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., dismissed the controversy surrounding Comey’s firing and the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt,” echoing many of the president’s tweets. He pointed to testimony earlier in the day by current intelligence officials saying that Trump has not made inappropriate demands of them.

Hice questioned why Comey maintained detailed memos on his meetings with Trump.

“I want to know personally did he keep these kinds of notes with other people,” he said, specifically mentioning former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s meeting with Bill Clinton last summer.

Hice also suggested Comey will need to explain why he did not report Trump’s alleged attempts to pressure him at the time.

“There’s a possibility he could end up out of this in hotter water than he is going into it,” he said.

After Comey’s opening statement was released by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., said he was not aware of any bombshell revelations.

“If somebody was looking for a smoking gun, that sure doesn’t sound like a smoking gun to me,” he said.

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