On Wednesday morning -- hours ahead of hotly anticipated testimony from Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers -- President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he is nominating Christopher Wray as new head of the FBI.
According to Betsy Woodfruff and Spencer Ackerman at The Daily Beast, many agents saw the abrupt announcement as "a slap in the face" that was "an insult to every FBI agent."
"The fact that Trump made this announcement just a day before former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony hasn’t been lost on the federal law enforcement community," said the Daily Beast.
The timing of the announcement gives the appearance that Trump is using the federal law enforcement apparatus for political purposes, which is "anathema" to its personnel, who pride themselves on staying out of political fights and partisan bickering.
Comey is set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday about the investigation into Trump's connections to Russian meddling in the 2016 election cycle. He is expected to reveal damaging information about the president's attempts to dissuade him from pursuing the investigation into disgraced former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.
“Unfortunately, the timing of this nomination––if this is what you call it, nomination by tweet––the timing of it looks as political as anything else today, because this was obviously timed to take a little bit of light and heat out of tomorrow’s show,” said retired FBI Deputy Director Ron Hosko to the Daily Beast. “The first step in this president’s dealing with what could be the next FBI director is politics on display, day one, moment one.”
“He’s trying to deflect,” one retired agent told Woodruff and Ackerman. “Given the fact that you fired Comey, you should have a replacement named within a week or so. This has gone on for what, a month?”
“It’s a joke,” the agent said. “It’s an insult to every FBI agent, current and former.”
Wray ran the Criminal Division of the Justice Department from 2003 to 2005, then went to work for the private law firm King and Spaulding. He was Gov. Chris Christie's top defense attorney during the "Bridgegate" scandal in 2015.
The first priority of many agents, said the Daily Beast, will be to determine whether Wray is a political operative or if he has "absolute, unqualified independence from any political influence,” said 20-year FBI veteran Marc Ruskin.
"Additionally," wrote Woodruff and Ackerman, "Wray has ties to Mueller and his inquiry. A colleague from the Enron task force, Andrew Weissman, recently signed on with Mueller’s prosecutorial team. Wray oversaw that task force during his time at the Justice Department."
Wray was a side player in the 2004 Comey-led revolt among upper echelon law enforcement officials against the George W. Bush administration's warrantless wiretap program.
To earn trust among the rank and file of the FBI, Ruskin said, Wray must show support for special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into ties between the Trump White House and the Kremlin.
If confirmed, Wray must show himself to be "free of any hint, suggestion or bent that he’s made any decision formulated by anything other than the evidence and the facts presented to him, or [if] he’s subject to the influence of politicians of anyone else inappropriate,” Ruskin said.