Last week, former FBI Director James Comey penned an op-ed in The New York Times detailing how Trump manages to get accomplished leaders to compromise their values and judgment to become Donald Trump’s sycophants. “Trump eats your soul in small bites” is the disturbing way that Comey described it. Comey’s replacement, current FBI Director Christopher Wray, is proving to be a rare exception, despite having been hand-picked for the position by Trump.
At his Senate confirmation hearing in July 2017, Wray affirmed his belief that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election and denied that the investigations were a “witch hunt,” as Trump still absurdly claims. Wray also testified that no one at the White House had asked him to pledge loyalty to Trump, and if Trump were to ask him to violate any laws, Wray promised to resign.
There is no question that Wray came across as an independent leader who thinks for himself and has the inner strength to stand up to Trump when necessary. Wray’s testimony earned him the job after an overwhelmingly bipartisan 92-5 vote. But it took place two years ago, before so many revelations about Trump’s Russia connections and other scandals came to light. Also, skeptics could argue that the fact Wray was trying to convince the Senate to confirm him for a top position in the federal government could have colored his testimony.
Flash forward to the present. Now well established at his job, Wray took the stand this morning to testify at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing about the FBI’s budget request. Two key statements he made reveal that this is the same Chris Wray we saw testifying at his confirmation hearing. The first statement came in response to Senator Jeanne Shaheen asking Wray if he believes FBI agents are engaging in “spying” when they are following FBI investigative policies and procedures. Wray unequivocally shot down that word, contradicting the view of his boss, Attorney General William Barr, as well as Trump. “That’s not the term I would use. So, I would say that’s a no to that question.” Second, Wray did not hesitate to admit that “I don’t think I personally have any evidence of that sort” when asked if he knew of any illegal surveillance into the Trump campaign.
It appears Wray has managed to keep his soul out of reach of Trump’s growling stomach and salivating mouth. Ironically, Senator Lindsey Graham, whose soul now mostly resides in Trump’s bowels, cautioned Wray at his hearing about what he was getting into. “Do you realize that you’re stepping into the role of the Director at FBI at one of the most contentious times in the history of American politics?’’ Graham asked. In that next instant, Wray proved himself qualified: “This is not a job for the faint of heart, and I can assure this committee that I am not faint of heart.’’