Just one day before James Comey is to testify to the Senate Intelligence Committee about Trump and the FBI’s Russia investigation, Trump tweeted on Wednesday that he has picked a Comey replacement:
Trump’s announcement raised some eyebrows because Wray, a former federal prosecutor, was also Governor Chris Christie’s lawyer in his Bridgegate scandal. But for the most part Wray is viewed as “a safe, mainstream pick,” as The New York Times put it, and his nomination is “likely to allay the fears of F.B.I. agents who worried that Mr. Trump would try to weaken or politicize the F.B.I.”
The main wrinkle is that Trump’s announcement is apparently intended to preempt Comey’s eagerly anticipated testimony, which is expected to shed light on how Trump attempted to sway the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Nominating a stand-up guy to replace Comey is an implicit argument that Trump is not the type to interfere in the FBI’s work.
Senator Mark Warner told CBS News that the announcement was also intended to shift the news cycle away from the Russia scandal:
As Warner noted, Trump has asked top government officials, including Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, to get involved in the Russia probe on his behalf. “The nation’s top intelligence official told associates in March that President Trump asked him if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe,” The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
Both Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers reportedly declined to publicly deny evidence of coordination between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government. Both men are set to testify to the Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.