Senators want the new FBI director on the job as soon as possible, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell intends to see Christopher Wray confirmed before August recess. That looks increasingly likely, as the Judiciary Committee unanimously approved his nomination, teeing it up for floor consideration as soon as McConnell moves ahead.
But the year’s nomination process has been so fraught that McConnell’s staff sent a statement out announcing the Kentucky Republican’s intentions complete with a warning shot to Democrats.
“Even though Senate Democrats have brought unprecedented obstruction to the nominations process this year for no good reason, we hope they do not sink to a new low and force the first ever cloture vote on an FBI Director nominee,” McConnell spokesman David Popp said in a statement.
If anything, the resolve of Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to advance the nomination of Wray to replace the fired James Comey as the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was emboldened by the Wednesday night publication of a New York Times interview with President Donald Trump.
“I will tell we are at the doorstep of a constitutional crisis in this country. We have to establish the independence and credibility of our Department of Justice,” Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin said. “We have to make it clear that no one in this country, including the President of the United States, is above the law.”
Durbin, an Illinois Democrat and longtime member of the Judiciary Committee, said that he takes Wray at his word about the significance of the Bureau maintaining its independence. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse echoed that sentiment.
“It was vital that Mr. Wray make clear his allegiance is to the rule of law, the attorneys and law enforcement officials with whom he would serve, and, ultimately, the American people,” the Rhode Island Democrat said. “He did just that.”
Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, who at times had complaints about Comey being unresponsive to requests from the committee, also praised Wray.
“During his hearing, he spoke of his deep respect for the FBI in keeping Americans safe, and he pledged that he ‘will never allow the FBI’s work to be driven by anything other than the facts, the law, and the impartial pursuit of justice.’ His unanimous support by the Judiciary Committee today is a strong indication of our faith in his abilities to lead the FBI, and I look forward to confirming him on the Senate floor,” Grassley said.
The FBI post is confirmed for a 10-year term, although as was the case when Trump terminated Comey’s employment, the director does serve at the pleasure of the president.