WASHINGTON — As the newly-installed FBI director, it was Christopher Wray’s party.
But guests gathered in the courtyard of the J.Edgar Hoover Building today for Wray’s formal installation as the eighth director of the venerable bureau spent at least part of the time scanning the crowd for potentially uncomfortable encounters involving a few highly-anticipated guests.
In the tradition of official Washington, the president and past directors of the FBI usually attend such celebrations.
President Trump was noticeably absent. So the awkwardness of possible confrontations with the FBI director he fired—James Comey—and the former director now leading an investigation that continues to shadow his administration—Robert Mueller—never materialized.
Comey, who was abruptly dismissed by Trump in May, and Mueller, who served as Comey’s predecessor, also did not attend the low-key, yet warm welcoming ceremony for the 50-year old director. Mueller is currently a special counsel leading an investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with Trump associates.
On Thursday, hundreds of people filled the sun-splashed courtyard. Agency staffers crowded the overlooking concourses where Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who endorsed Comey’s removal, called Wray “right for the time” and his installation a “good day for America.”
“It’s not about him, but about security, justice and the law,” Sessions said. “He has no hidden agendas.”
Wray, former chief of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division where he worked under Comey during the George W. Bush administration, invoked the name of each of his predecessors – including Comey and Mueller – saying that “today’s FBI builds on that remarkable history.”
“I get up everyday fired up to come to work,” Wray said. “I get up everyday fired up to see what we can do next.”
Wray, who graduated from Yale Law School in 1992, left the Justice Department in 2005 to join the law firm of King & Spalding, where he represented major corporations in state and federal investigations. He also served as personal attorney to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the so-called Bridgegate scandal in 2013.
But the new director said he never lost his affinity for the Justice Department and the FBI.
During the 9/11 attacks, Wray was among the cadre of top federal officials who worked for days from a suite of offices in the building where he will now occupy the director’s suite.
“When we need people to go where others fear to tread, we turn to you again and again,” he said, looking to staffers gathered on the concourses.
“The threats we face are significant, the premium on vigilance doesn’t stop.
“This very moment means the world to me,” he said.
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