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FBI nominee says Trump-Russia probe is no 'witch hunt'

 Associated Press
July 12, 2017
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Breaking with the president, the lawyer Donald Trump picked to lead the FBI declared Wednesday that he does not believe a special counsel investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump election campaign is a "witch hunt."

Christopher Wray, the former high-ranking Justice Department official whom Trump nominated last month, also told senators at his confirmation hearing that he would never let politics get in the way of the bureau's mission.

The FBI's work will be driven only by "the facts, the law and the impartial pursuit of justice," he said, asserting his independence. "My loyalty is to the Constitution and the rule of law. They have been my guideposts throughout my career, and I will continue to adhere to them no matter the test."

Trump has repeatedly derided as a "hoax" and a "witch hunt" an ongoing investigation by the FBI and Robert Mueller, the former FBI director selected in May as the special counsel to oversee the probe.

Wray, selected for the FBI job last month after Trump fired James Comey, made clear that he disagreed with the characterization.

"I do not consider Director Mueller to be on a witch hunt," he said under questioning from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

He pledged to lead the FBI "without regard to any partisan political influence" and said he would consider unacceptable any efforts to interfere with Mueller's investigation.

After Trump dismissed Comey on May 9, the ex-FBI director said that the president had asked him to pledge his loyalty during a dinner at the White House months earlier. He also said Trump had encouraged him to end an investigation into the former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Wray said Trump made no demand for loyalty from him, and he would not offer it if asked.

Wray, 50, would inherit the nation's top law enforcement agency at a particularly challenging time, given the abrupt dismissal of Comey by a president who has appeared insensitive to the bright-line boundary between the White House and the FBI. Yet the hearing, the first public window into Wray's views since his selection, was largely devoid of fireworks in keeping with what friends and supporters have described as the nominee's low-key and disciplined style.

He appeared to have bipartisan support from senators.

The back-and-forth with lawmakers on Wednesday focused extensively on the Russia investigation, with Wray repeatedly voicing his respect for Mueller and his work. He said he had no reason to doubt the assessment of intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in the U.S. election through hacking.

And when asked about emails released a day earlier showing that Donald Trump Jr. was willing to take help from the Russian government during the campaign, he was emphatic that any foreign efforts to meddle in an election should be reported to the FBI rather than accepted.

Wray, who most recently has enjoyed a lucrative legal career at an international law firm, also faced questions about his work as a top Justice Department official in the Bush administration. He served the government at a time when harsh interrogation techniques were approved within the Justice Department for terror suspects captured overseas, though Wray said he was never involved in signing off on those methods.

Although Trump as a candidate professed support for waterboarding, Wray said he considered torture to be wrong and ineffective. "The FBI is going to play no part in the use of any techniques of that sort," he said.

He was questioned about his relationships with Comey and Mueller. Trump allies have said Mueller's closeness to Comey shows he can't lead an unbiased probe. But Trump nominated Wray despite his having worked with both men in the Justice Department.

Wray was at the department in 2004 when Comey, temporarily serving as acting attorney general in place of the ailing John Ashcroft, was prepared to resign during a dispute with the White House over the reauthorization of a domestic surveillance program. Wray said he, too, was willing to resign along with Comey and other Justice Department officials — not because he knew the substance of the dispute but because of the quality of the people who were prepared to leave.

"Knowing those people and having worked side-by-side with those people... there was no hesitation in my mind as to where I stood," he said.

Those who know him say that unlike the outspoken Comey, Wray would be a more reserved leader. His mild-mannered style could bode well for the agency at a time when its work has been thrust into the center of a political maelstrom.

He has deep experience in Washington, having served as head of the Justice Department's criminal division in the Bush administration, a position that had him overseeing major criminal prosecutions — such as the special task force investigating the Enron collapse — and also developing the U.S. government's legal response to terrorism and national security threats.

Over the past decade, he has worked in private practice at King & Spalding in Atlanta, where he's defended large corporations and financial institutions in criminal and civil cases.

He provided legal services to Johnson & Johnson, Wells Fargo, Credit Suisse and fantasy sports providers DraftKings and FanDuel, among other big-name clients, according to ethics documents released Monday. If confirmed, he'll have to step aside for a year from matters involving those clients and the law firm. He also assisted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during the so-called Bridgegate scandal.

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  1. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

  2. You just need my social security number sent to your Gmail account to process then loan, right? Beware scammers indeed.

  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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