Christopher Wray, the nominee to become the FBI's new leader, discussed a range of topics during his confirmation hearing before the Senate judiciary committee on Wednesday. But one theme kept coming up:
"What is your view on the independence of the FBI generally — even more importantly, as you as director head up that organization?" Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the committee, asked.
"There's only one right way to do this job, and that is with strict independence," Wray responded.
"Will you work and actually pledge to keep the FBI from any political interference or influence?" Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy asked.
"Absolutely, Senator," Wray said.
It's not all that surprising given that a significant portion of the hearing focused on how Wray would react to situations now-fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates and now-fired FBI Director James Comey say they experienced while serving under the Trump administration.
Yates was fired after she instructed the Department of Justice not to defend President Donald Trump's original travel ban executive order.
"If the president asked you to do something unlawful or unethical, what do you say?" Leahy asked.
Wray replied: "First I would try to talk him out of it. And if that failed, I would resign."
"I made a determination that I believed that it was unlawful," Yates said while testifying before a judiciary subcommittee in May. "I also thought that it was inconsistent with the principles of the Department of Justice, and I said no. And that's what I promised you I would do, and that's what I did."
Democratic Sen. Chris Coons asked Wray: "If you were fired or resign for refusing to carry out a presidential order, will you commit to come to Congress to testify about that decision and what drove you to make that decision?"
"Well, certainly, if I legally and appropriately can," Wray responded.
After his firing, Comey told the Senate intelligence committee that President Trump told him in a private meeting that he hoped Comey could let go of the investigation into former National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Comey said he perceived it to be a "direction" from the president.
"There isn't a person on this planet whose lobbying or influence could convince me to just drop or abandon a properly predicated and meritorious investigation," Wray said when asked by Republican Sen. Ben Sasse to describe the circumstances that would lead him to resign.
Sasse also asked: "Would you commit today that any White House direction that you would curtail or end an investigation is something that you would report back to this committee and this Senate?"
Wray answered: "I would certainly report it wherever is appropriate."