Trump's FBI nominee passes committee, heads to full Senate
© Greg Nash

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved Christopher Wray, President Trump's nominee to lead the FBI, on Thursday.

The move paves the way for the full Senate to take up Wray's nomination before senators leave for the summer recess, with GOP leadership wanting to vote on him before the mid-August break.

Under committee rules, any one senator could have blocked a committee vote on Wray's nomination until next week. But Democrats signaled ahead of the meeting that they would let him move forward.

"I'm satisfied that he has the qualifications and independence [needed]," Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinLawmakers feel pressure on guns Feinstein: Trump must urge GOP to pass bump stock ban Florida lawmakers reject motion to consider bill that would ban assault rifles MORE (D-Calif.) said Thursday ahead of the vote. "I do not intend to request that his nomination be held over."

Democrats have been largely supportive of Wray's nomination after sharply criticizing Trump for his surprise decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey.

The vote on Wray comes after Trump took new shots at the FBI and Justice Department investigations into Russia's presidential election interference and potential ties between Trump's campaign and Moscow.

Democrats repeatedly referenced a recent New York Times article, saying it sparked new concerns about the president. 

"We find ourselves at an important moment in history. ... The statements made by the president yesterday to The New York Times have shaken me and many across America," said Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinAmerica’s waning commitment to the promise of the First Amendment Senate rejects Trump immigration plan What to watch for in the Senate immigration votes MORE (Ill.) — the No. 2 Senate Democrat. 

Feinstein quoted that article during the meeting, relaying Trump's rehashing of an alleged conversation with Comey on a probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

"He said I said 'hope' — 'I hope you can treat Flynn good' or something like that. I didn’t say anything," Trump told The New York Times.

"Even if I did, that’s not — other people go a step further. I could have ended that whole thing just by saying — they say it can’t be obstruction because you can say: It’s ended. It’s over. Period," the president added.

Feinstein added that she is "hopeful" Wray will be willing to push back against Trump, saying we "need leaders with steel spines, not weak knees."

"He committed to doing the job by the book and without any regard to partisan political influence," she said.