Biden White House confirms Wray will be kept on as FBI director

Jennifer Epstein and Chris Strohm

President Joe Biden plans to keep Christopher Wray as FBI director, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said after her remarks on Inauguration Day generated confusion about the future of the agency’s leader.

“I caused an unintentional ripple yesterday so wanted to state very clearly President Biden intends to keep FBI Director Wray on in his role and he has confidence in the job he is doing,” Psaki tweeted on Thursday.

Psaki said on Wednesday that she hadn’t spoken with Biden about whether he has confidence in Wray. During the Trump era, such statements were often made about officials whose futures were in doubt.

FBI Director Christopher Wray, testifies during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing in this Sept. 24, 2020, file photo.

It’s a sign of Biden’s confidence in the Donald Trump appointee – and a return to pre-Trump presidential tradition – that the new president will keep the FBI director, who still has six years left in his term.

Trump had threatened to fire Wray, 54, at various points over numerous issues, including the former president’s frustration that U.S. law enforcement officials wouldn’t provide politically damaging information on Biden’s family.

Hunter Biden, the president’s son, is under federal investigation primarily for his dealings with Chinese businesses, officials said in December. The new president has pledged not to meddle in the investigation. Keeping Wray in place is one way to show he’s letting the probe progress unfettered.

Firing Wray, conversely, would probably have caused an uproar early in Biden’s presidency, echoing the consequences that followed Trump’s firing of then-FBI director James Comey in 2017. In an interview with NBC, Trump said at the time that he was thinking of “this Russia thing,” which he called “a made-up story,” when he fired Comey.

Comey’s removal led to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to investigate any ties between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia’s efforts to interfere in the election.

Unlike many other Trump appointees, Wray took a low-key approach and sought to stay out of the public spotlight. He also had the backing of former Attorney General William Barr, who lobbied behind the scenes to keep Wray from being fired.

Turbulent Time

Wray took over the Federal Bureau of Investigation in August 2017 during a turbulent time after Comey’s ouster.

Wray tangled at times with congressional Republicans who demanded that he declassify documents related to the Russia investigation that they say would show anti-Trump bias in the bureau.

During the 2020 campaign, Wray refused to support unsubstantiated claims by Trump and his Republican allies that the widespread use of mail-in ballots would lead to massive voter fraud.

He also refused to go along with Trump and Republicans who sought to portray left-wing groups as the biggest threat to domestic security, saying publicly that right-wing extremists were the most dangerous. Wray also angered Trump and Republicans by saying publicly that Russia was interfering once again in last year’s election in hopes of preventing Biden from defeating Trump.

Currently, the FBI is providing support for the investigations into Hunter Biden.

The probes have included one led by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Delaware into whether the president’s son violated tax laws related to his business dealings in China, and another by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania into his activities in Ukraine and potential money laundering, a person familiar with the inquiries said.

Questions about Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine stemmed from allegations provided by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, spurring tensions between Justice Department officials over how credible the information was. It wasn’t clear if the Ukraine-related investigation is continuing.