Live coverage: Trump's FBI nominee questioned by senators

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMLK weekend marks longest span without a press briefing in Trump presidency Giuliani says his comments on Trump Tower talks were 'hypothetical' Mueller coverage keeps missing its mark, as BuzzFeed debacle shows MORE's pick to replace former FBI Director James Comey takes the stand Wednesday morning in a confirmation hearing expected to be dominated by the Russian election meddling controversy.

Chris Wray, a former senior Justice Department official under George W. Bush, will be tasked with reassuring the Senate Judiciary Committee that he will be able to keep politics out of the FBI.

Comey claimed that Trump repeatedly tried to interfere in the federal investigation into his campaign's possible ties to Russia — something critics say was a dangerous breach of the bureau's independence.

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While Wray himself is relatively uncontroversial — he was confirmed unanimously by voice vote to lead the Justice Department’s Criminal Division in 2003 — the specter of Comey's dismissal hangs over the post.

Follow along with The Hill's live coverage. 

Ending hearing, Democrat signals strong support for Wray

2:08 p.m. 

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharIdentity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination CNN analyst Phil Mudd: Barr will ‘crush’ Trump administration 5 takeaways from Barr’s testimony MORE (D-Minn.) declared the hearing adjourned shortly after 2 p.m., signaling that Wray would receive her support as well as that of "a number of her colleagues." 

“You have a lot of support here," Klobuchar said. 

She particularly singled out Wray's answers on independence, calling them “very compelling and heartfelt.” 

“I don’t have to tell you that you’re coming in at a time that is unprecedented," Klobuchar said, noting Comey's firing and the recusal of Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Health Care: Thousands more migrant children may have been separated | Senate rejects bill to permanently ban federal funds for abortion | Women's March to lobby for 'Medicare for All' Acting AG Whitaker's wife defends him in lengthy email to journalist Watchdog: Thousands more migrant children separated from parents than previously known MORE from the Russia investigation. 

“It couldn’t be a more important time for you to be coming into this agency," she said. 

Grassley departs early

1:52 p.m. 

Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyDem calls for Cohen to testify before Senate panel over explosive report Senate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees IRS shutdown plan fails to quell worries MORE (R-Iowa) departed shortly before 2 p.m. to make a regular scheduled news conference. Before leaving, he congratulated Wray on his nomination and pledged to move quickly to approve his nomination. 

“We expect to move this along … very quickly," Grassley said. 

Senators continue to press Wray

1:40 p.m. 

The hearing stretched into it's fifth hour Wednesday afternoon, following a brief break for votes. Senators continued to press Wray on issues of independence and Sessions' recusal from the Russia probe, gleaning similar answers from him yielded by earlier questions. 

Wray okay with Sessions controlling resources

12:53 p.m. 

Wray said that resourcing decisions in the Russia investigation were “an appropriate role” for Attorney General Sessions, despite Sessions' recusal from the probe.

He did say he would work to make sure special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation would receive adequate resources.

“I have no doubt that if he’s not getting what they need, he will ask me," Wray said. 

Feinstein will support Wray

12:50 p.m. 

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGraham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies Debate builds over making Mueller report public BuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters Wednesday that she will support Wray for FBI director. 

She also said she expects his nomination to be delayed for a week.  

GOP senator worried about ‘perception’ of FBI

12:30 p.m.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said he is worried about the perception of the FBI being political, though he noted that he does not believe the FBI is a political body. 

“I worry about the perception that some Americans might have about the FBI based on the testimony that this committee and others have heard — in the past, not today,” Kennedy said. 

He told Wray that he wants him to be “Socrates” and “Dirty Harry with the bad guys.” 

Wray again emphasized the need for the FBI to be free from partisan politics.

Wray first approached by Rosenstein for FBI position 

12:25 p.m.

Wray shed light on the process by which he was selected for the FBI director, saying that he was first contacted by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein.

He then met with Rosenstein and Sessions together. Around Memorial Day, Wray said, he had a “brief meeting” at the White House that included the president and other Justice Department officials.

Wray says he would let 'right people' know if pressured by Trump

12:20 p.m. 

Wray told Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenIdentity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination Bill Maher defends Bernie Sanders campaign over sexual harassment allegations Gillibrand defends calling for Franken to resign during stop in Iowa MORE (D-Minn.) that he would notify the appropriate people if he were ever asked by President Trump to end an investigation. 

Wray would not say directly whether he would notify the committee, but said he would first go to the deputy attorney general and then notify the appropriate parties. 

“I would make sure that all the right people knew," Wray said.

Tillis presses Wray on 702 

12:15 p.m. 

Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisCentrist efforts to convince Trump to end shutdown falter GOP reasserts NATO support after report on Trump’s wavering Leaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight MORE (R-N.C.) pressed Wray on his opinions on Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is up for reauthorization at the end of the year. 

The surveillance law provision allows the government to collect intelligence on foreigners without a warrant. The Senate panel is currently debating the program, and some have pressed for reforms to protect Americans who get incidentally swept up in the collection efforts. 

Wray said Section 702 is a "tool that needs to be a high priority for the country that needs to get renewed appropriately."

Tillis, who also emphasized the importance of the provision, said lawmakers should debate controls to make sure it is not abused.  

Wray’s understanding of 10 year terms conflicts with Grassley’s

11:51 a.m. 

Answering a question from Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Wray described the reasoning behind the FBI director’s 10 year term in a way that conflicts with Chairman Chuck Grassley.

“The role of the FBI and the FBI director needs to be one that is independent of partisan politics,” said Wray.

During Grassley’s opening statement, Grassley specifically said the 10 year term was not intended to shield the director from politics or politicians. 

“History shows the 10 year term limit is not to protect the FBI director from politicians or politics, it is intended to prevent the FBI director from overreaching or abusing power," Grassley said. 

Wray details involvement in drama over Bush-era surveillance program

11:43 a.m. 

Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseGraham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies Dem calls for Cohen to testify before Senate panel over explosive report Speculation swirls over candidates to succeed Rosenstein MORE (D-R.I.) pressed Wray on his involvement in a dramatic standoff over a George W. Bush-era domestic surveillance program. 

Wray said he was among a group of officials organized by James Comey and Robert Mueller who were prepared to resign over the program as the White House pushed for its reauthorization despite recommendations from the Justice Department.

“Yes, I was one of the people who said he would resign,” said Wray, who was at the Justice Department at the time. “I was not read into the program at the time,” he added. 

Wray said he was informed by Comey of unclassified details about the dispute over the program. Comey memorably recounted the events before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2007. 

The dispute played out dramatically when Comey rushed to the hospital bed of John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, in 2004 to beat out White House aides who were headed there to convince him to reauthorize the program.

Cornyn: Will you be another Comey? 

11:27 a.m. 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGraham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies Trump tells GOP senators he’s sticking to Syria and Afghanistan pullout  Texas governor, top lawmakers tell Trump not to use hurricane relief funds to build border wall MORE (R-Texas) asked for assurances Wray would not hold news conferences like the one Comey gave about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIdentity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination O'Rourke’s strategy: Show Americans the real Beto Conservatives pound BuzzFeed, media over Cohen report MORE's emails.

“I need to know, and the committee needs to know, whether you understand the gravity of the mistakes made by the previous director and that you pledge never to repeat them,” Cornyn asked.

“The way he describes the policies and practices is consistent with my understanding of the policies and practices and the way I would intend to approach the policies and practices,” said Wray, who was careful throughout questioning not to critique Comey directly.

Mueller not on a witch hunt, says Wray
11:15 a.m.
 
During a impassioned string of questions from Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamExperts warn of persistent ISIS threat after suicide bombing Graham: Trump should meet Pakistan's leader to reset relations State of American politics is all power games and partisanship MORE (R-S.C.), Wray disagreed with the president's characterizations of the investigations into Russian election tampering. 
 
“I do not consider Mueller to be on a witch hunt,” Wray said. 
 
Wray dings Comey conduct in Clinton case
11:11 a.m.

Wray obliquely criticized the bombshell news conference given by his predecessor last July, when he announced that there would be no charges in the Clinton email investigation — but he heavily criticized the former secretary of State.

While Wray declined to criticize Comey directly, “I can’t imagine a situation where I would be giving a press conference on an uncharged individual," he said, in response to questioning from Graham.

Graham presses Wray on Donald Trump Jr.'s 'email problems'

11:08 a.m. 

Graham used his time to press Wray on the latest revelations about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer. 

Wray repeatedly indicated that he was not up to date on the latest revelations about the meeting, and Graham proceeded to read excerpts of the email chain between Trump's eldest son and Rob Goldstone, an entertainment publicist who represents Russian pop star and businessman Emin Agalarov. 

Goldstone sought to set up the meeting on behalf of Emin, saying that a Russian lawyer had offered damaging information on Democrat Hillary Clinton. The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, is said to be connected to the Russian government, though she has denied it. 

When asked by Graham if Trump Jr. should have taken the meeting, Wray replied, “I'm not really in a position to speak to it.” 

When Graham asked him the same question of a hypothetical scenario, Wray answered, “I would think you'd want to consult with some good legal advisers before you did that.”

Further pressed by Graham on whether the FBI would want to know about an effort by a foreign government to offer disparaging information about a political opponent, Wray said, “Any threat or effort to interfere with our elections by any nation state or any nonstate actor is something the FBI would want to know.”

When asked whether Trump Jr.'s account of the meeting's arrangement was accurate, Wray again answered that he didn't "have the full context.”

Graham told Wray that he wanted him to review the email chain — which he described as Trump Jr.'s "email problems" — and get back to the committee on his assessment of it. 

Wray, who said he has no reason to doubt the intelligence community's conclusions about Russia's election interference campaign, said such an effort is an "adversarial" act." 

 Wray: Classified Russia info 'one of the first things I would want to see'

10:52

Answering a question from Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyBuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president GOP insiders knock their depictions in new Dick Cheney biopic ‘Vice’ Barr: It would be a crime for president to pardon someone in exchange for their silence MORE (D-Vt.), Wray said he had no reason to doubt the intelligence community’s reports that Russia was behind election tampering efforts in the 2016 election. But he qualified his statement, noting he had not seen the classified reports on the issue.

Leahy asked if he planned to read the reports. 

Wray said, it was “one of the first things I would want to see.”

Wray: White House didn't ask for loyalty pledge

10:52 a.m. 

When questioned by Leahy, Wray said the White House did not ask him for a so-called "loyalty pledge" and added that he wouldn't have given one if asked. 

“No one asked me for any kind of loyalty oath during this process, and I would sure as heck not offer one," Wray said. 

In his testimony before the Senate in June, former FBI Director Comey said Trump had stressed his need for loyalty during a private meeting. Trump's lawyer has pushed back on Comey's account. 

Leahy used his time to highlight the recent revelations about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer, which was also attended by Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, and Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law turned senior adviser. The lawyer has denied reports that she is connected to the Kremlin. 

“Just yesterday, we learned that a number of members of the Trump campaign were eager to work and talk with members of the Russian organization, even though they're an adversary of ours, about the campaign," Leahy said. 

“No country, especially an enemy like Russia, should be able to interfere with our country," he added. 

Wray says any effort to interfere with Mueller probe would be 'unacceptable'

10:40 a.m. 

Wray said that any effort to "tamper with" Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference would be "unacceptable and inappropriate," saying he would notify the committee of any effort if appropriate. 

“Assuming that I can do it legally and appropriately, absolutely," Wray said when asked by Feinstein if he would notify the committee of any such effort to interfere with the investigation. 

“I would consult with the appropriate officials to make sure that I'm not jeopardizing the investigation," Wray said.

He said that any effort to tamper with the investigation would be “unacceptable and inappropriate and would need to be dealt with very sternly." 

Wray slams torture 

10:39 a.m. 

Wray answered a question from ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on his positions — both current and prior — on torture. Bush appointee John Yoo had claimed that Wray had participated in memos stating interrogations would not rise to torture unless they appeared to cause a risk of organ failure or death.

“First let me say, in my view, torture is wrong, it is unacceptable, it is illegal and I think it is unacceptable," Wray said.

“Good beginning,” replied Feinstein.

Wray said one of his proudest moments was prosecuting a contractor for a death associated with torture.

He said he never reviewed, provided input or approved any memo on torture despite Yoo’s claim. 

Wray: No conversations on Comey with White House
 
10:33 a.m.

In response to questioning from Feinstein, Wray said that he has had no conversations with the White House regarding Comey's dismissal. 

His only discussion on the matter with the Justice Department, he said, was with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein when Rosenstein approached him about taking on the position. 

Rosenstein told him that the appointment of a special counsel, Robert Mueller, in the federal investigation into Russian interference, made for a "better landscape for me to consider taking on" the position, Wray said. 

"That was it," he said.

Grassley presses on 'independence'

10:19 a.m. 

Grassley used his first question to press Gray on the importance of independence at the FBI. 

“I believe to my core that there is only one right way to do this job, and that is with strict independence, by the book, playing it straight, faithful to our constitution, faithful to our laws, faithful to the best practices of the institution.” Wray replied, reiterating his pledge to independence made in his opening statement. 

"Anybody who thinks I would be pulling punches as the FBI director sure doesn’t know me very well,” he later added.

Wray pledges independence 

10:15 a.m. 

During his opening statement, Wray pledged to lead an independent FBI and not to be driven by anything other than facts. 

“I will never allow the FBI's work to be driven by anything other than the facts, the law, and the impartial pursuit of justice. Period. Full stop," Wray said. "My loyalty is to the constitution and the rule of law.”

He pledged “to lead an independent bureau that will make every American proud.”

Wray also paid tribute to rank-and-file employees at the FBI, noting his experience with them during his time leading the Justice Department's criminal division. 

He cheered them for their tireless work following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. 

Former senator gives strong endorsement of Wray

10:09 a.m. 

Sam Nunn, a former Democratic senator from Georgia, introduced Wray Wednesday morning, offering a full-throated endorsement of him for the FBI head position. 

“Chris Wray is the leader of integrity the bureau needs at this moment,” Nunn said, urging his swift confirmation by the Senate.

Feinstein signals focus on torture

10:03 a.m.
 
Feinstein signaled in her opening statement that she will press Wray both on the need for independence at the FBI as well as what role he may have played in the George W. Bush administration's controversial interrogation and detention program. 

"The FBI director does not serve the president. He serves the Constitution, the law and the American people," she said.

She indicated that she will press Wray on what his role at the Justice Department was in reviewing and approving the legal memos that underpinned the Bush administration's program of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, which critics say amounted to torture.

Grassley goes after McCabe

9:45 a.m.  

Grassley used his opening statement to go after acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, raising questions about his independence and the potential for conflicts of interest having to do with the bureau’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Grassley, as he has done previously, questioned why McCabe had not recused himself from the investigation. 

He recited a litany of allegations against McCabe, starting with his wife’s run for state office, during which she accepted a donation from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), a close confidant to Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Grassley also noted McCabe was accused of sexual discrimination by an agent who claimed retaliation, noting that last week it was reported Flynn had offered support on her behalf.

“That means Lt. General Flynn is an adverse witness,” noted Grassley.

Grassley says FBI director term limit 'a ceiling, not a floor'

9:43 a.m. 

Grassley during his opening statement said that the 10 year term of the FBI director is “a ceiling, not a floor," appearing to justify the firing of former Director James Comey.

“History shows the 10 year term limit is not to protect the FBI director from politicians or politics, it is intended to prevent the FBI director from overreaching or abusing power," Grassley said. 

Grassley gavels in

9:35 a.m. 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) gaveled in Wednesday morning, saying that members would get 10 minutes each for questioning during the first round instead of the usual seven, at the minority's request. 

Grassley cheered Wray for his “impressive legal career” and “independence,” and noted the bipartisan endorsements he has earned.

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