We’re a couple hours into Christopher Wray’s confirmation hearing, and so far, President Trump’s designee has delivered bog standard testimony—overly cautious, a little dodgy, no surprises. The kind of testimony that under normal circumstances would lead to a nominee’s overwhelming confirmation. But precisely because the circumstances are not ordinary, I think zero Democrats should support him, either in committee or on the Senate floor.
This isn’t meant as comment on Wray himself, who may turn out to be a perfectly fine FBI director. The problem is that because of what we know about Wray’s soon-to-be boss, there’s no way anyone in the Senate can have confidence that he’ll serve honorably. In fact, Wray himself can’t know whether he’ll serve honorably, even if he intends to. Trump tried to corrupt James Comey. He even made Comey go wobbly at a couple key junctures. But when Trump’s efforts to obstruct investigations failed, he fired Comey and lied about it. Would Wray put up Comey-levels of resistance? No one can honestly say, but the fact that Trump handpicked Wray should put everyone on alert.
The FBI needs a director, of course, but after demonstrating the above pattern of conduct, Trump should never have been allowed to select Comey’s replacement from his own list. Wray is the kind of guy who may have appeared on a list of five or ten acceptable directors, dictated to Trump by—say—the chair and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. But anyone whom Trump nominated of his own volition was going to have a difficult time shaking off the stench of Trump’s desire to co-opt federal law enforcement. Tepid answers to basic questions—like, Should campaign aides contacted by foreign governments contact the FBI?—doesn’t do it.
Again, it’s not Wray’s fault, necessarily, but it’s critical that Comey’s successor be someone that the next president doesn’t feel the need to fire. Wray may serve with distinction through Trump’s presidency and into his successor’s presidency. But the likelihood that anyone Trump selected will end up becoming compromised is so high that Democrats shouldn’t preemptively complicate efforts to remove him in the future by offering their support to him now.