Can the FBI Be Independent?

When President Donald Trump appointed Atlanta lawyer Christopher Wray to succeed James Comey as the director of the FBI, my initial reaction was not positive. Wray is a veteran of the Department of Justice and is part of that good-old-boy DOJ network that knows how to protect its own. Indeed, when then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a former U.S. attorney, needed a good criminal defense lawyer — whose millions in fees were paid by New Jersey taxpayers — he hired Wray.

Christie was never indicted in the Bridgegate scandal, but defense counsel for those who were sought Christie’s cellphone to demonstrate to jurors the governor’s involvement in the plot to shut down lanes near the George Washington Bridge for political retaliation. Christie claimed that he gave his phone to federal prosecutors, but they told the court that they did not have the phone. Where was it? In a safe of the Atlanta law firm that employed Wray.

The FBI director-to-be, sitting in his office in Atlanta, failed to provide evidence he had that he knew a federal court in Newark was seeking. This sordid episode was not dwelled upon during Wray’s confirmation hearings, at the end of which he was confirmed to a 10-year term running the FBI. So Trump’s search for an outsider who would change the Comey-led culture of political justice and run the nation’s premier law enforcement agency according to the rule of law turned up the ultimate insider.

Earlier this week, Wray testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the behavior of FBI agents — including the former director and former deputy director — during the criminal investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Wray had to thread a small needle.

On the one hand, the FBI is an investigative entity only. It does not decide whom or what to charge; it…

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