Trump's New FBI Pick Shouldn't Get a Hearing

Christopher Wray might be qualified, but Trump shouldn't get to pick someone who will investigate him

President Trump has tapped former Assistant Attorney General Christopher Wray, pictured in 2003, to head the FBI in the wake of firing James Comey. Credit: Ron Edmonds/AP

I don't care about Christopher Wray's qualifications. People who know him consider him a "serious, respectable" pick or a "smart, serious, and professional" one. It doesn't matter.

Donald Trump told James Comey to back off his investigation of Michael Flynn. He asked him for his loyalty. After Comey refused both requests, Trump fired him for (sorry) trumped-up reasons. He then admitted in an interview with Lester Holt he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation.

Let that sink in: The president fired the director of the FBI to impede and obstruct an investigation into himself and his staff. Why on earth would we even consider allowing that same man to nominate Jim Comey's successor?

How could we possibly trust that anyone Trump chooses to head the FBI hasn't offered him some kind of assurance? Or that Trump hasn't made it clear to him he too will be fired if the FBI continues its investigations?

When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, Republicans claimed Obama couldn't nominate his replacement because of an election nine months away. They refused to give Merrick Garland, a well-qualified, consensus choice, even a hearing on his nomination.

Wray may be well-qualified. He may be a consensus pick. But unlike the GOP's laughable obstruction of Garland, not allowing Wray a hearing on his nomination as FBI director is clearly the right thing to do.

Why would we even consider allowing a man who is under investigation to name someone who will be a key figure in that investigation? Yes, special counsel Robert Mueller is now running his own investigation, but the FBI's inquiries are likely to play a key part in the work Mueller does.

There are other options. Acting Director Andrew McCabe – whom Trump considered for the permanent position, and rejected – could be allowed to stay in the position until the investigations into the Trump campaign's ties with Russia are complete. Or Trump could agree to appoint, with no input, a nominee for FBI director selected by an independent, bipartisan commission. (Better yet, Trump could resign.)

But it makes no sense to allow the president, who is not just the subject of an investigation but who has done so much to interfere with the investigation, to choose the next FBI head. Remember, it's not just Comey Trump asked to impede the investigation. He asked the head of the National Security Agency and the director of national intelligence to publicly claim there was no evidence of wrongdoing. (They refused.) He has repeatedly tried to distract from his own wrongdoing, making up stories about President Obama ordering wiretaps of Trump Tower and insisting the real story is that D.C. officials keep leaking what he's done – and not, of course, his own leaks of classified information. He was reportedly furious about Attorney General Jeff Sessions' recusal from the investigation.

President Trump has, in short, been acting like someone who is guilty. And whether he is or not, he certainly should not be allowed to appoint anyone involved in the investigation.

Wray may be eminently qualified to serve as FBI director, or he may have troubling blemishes on his record that make him a terrible choice. Under normal circumstances, we'd rely on the confirmation process to suss that out.

But Wray shouldn't get a confirmation hearing. No one nominated for the job by Trump should. It's not a hard question. If you're under a cloud of suspicion, you shouldn't get to pick the guy looking into you. And no matter how experienced and serious Wray may be, he accepted a job Trump never should have been allowed to fill. That alone marks his judgment as questionable.