President Trump nominates Charles A. Wray as new FBI director; Chris Christie’s personal attorney in the Washington Bridge scandal
The 50-year-old Atlanta lawyer will replace James Comey, who was fired by President Trump for mishandling the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Comey will testify Thursday before a Senate committee about private conversations he had with Trump. It was reported Wednesday that he will confirm that President Trump pressed him to let go of the bureau’s investigation into former national security advisor Michael Flynn. Stay tuned.
Wray was assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration from 2003 to 2005, working under deputy attorney general Comey.
While head of the criminal division, Wray oversaw prominent fraud investigations, including Enron, the largest bankruptcy reorganization in American history at that time, and the biggest audit failure.
His nomination is widely expected to be confirmed by the Republican Senate.
ENRON: The scandal of October 2001 led to the bankruptcy of the Enron Corp., an American energy company based in Houston, Texas, and the dissolution of Arthur Andersen, one of the five largest audit and accountancy partnerships in the world.
Enron shareholders filed a $40 billion lawsuit after the company’s stock price plummeted from a high of $90.75 per share in the mid-2000s to less than $1 by the end of November 2001.
Many Enron executives were indicted on a variety of charges and some were later sentenced to prison. Enron’s auditor, Arthur Andersen, was found guilty in a U.S. District Court of illegally destroying documents relevant to the SEC investigation.
Enron founder Kenneth Lay (top) was convicted of six counts of securities and wire fraud and faced a maximum 45 years in prison. Before sentencing was scheduled, Lay died of a heart attack on July 5, 2006.
The company’s CEO Jefffrey Skilling was convicted on 19 of 28 counts of securities fraud and wire fraud and was sentenced to 24 years, 4 months in prison. He is due to be released in 2019.
All together, 16 people pleaded guilty for crimes committed at the company, and five others, including four former Merrill Lynch employees, were found guilty.
BRIDGEGATE: An American political scandal in which a staff member and political appointees of New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie colluded to create traffic jams in Fort Lee, New Jersey by closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge.
On Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, two of three toll lanes for a local street entrance were closed during morning rush hour. Local officials, emergency services, and the public were not notified of the lane closures, which Fort Lee declared a threat to public safety.
The resulting back-ups and gridlock on local streets ended only when the two lanes were reopened on Friday, Sept. 13, by an order from Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye. He said that the “hasty and ill-informed decision” could have endangered lives and violated federal and state laws.
It was alleged that the lanes had been closed to intentionally cause the massive traffic problem as retribution against Fort Lee’s Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who did not support Christie as a candidate in the 2013 New Jersey gubernatorial election.
The investigations centered on several of Christie’s appointees and staff, including David Wildstein, who ordered the lanes closed, and Bill Baroni, who had told the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee that the closures were for a traffic study.
The U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Paul J. Fishman, launched a federal investigation, resulting in a nine-count indictment against Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Baroni and Wildstein. The latter entered a guilty plea, and testified against Baroni and Kelly, who were found guilty on all counts in November 2016. David Samson pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy in July 2016, for acts unrelated to the lane closures but uncovered by the federal investigation.
As a result of the scandal, Gov. Christie, once considered a leading contender for the 2016 Republican nomination for president, dropped out of the presidential race in the New Hampshire primary. In September 2016, Christie was officially accused of knowledge of the plot by both the prosecution and the defense.
SNAPSHOT: Christopher A. Wray, 50, a graduate of Yale and Yale.
He was heckled by Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss during his confirmation hearing in 2003 for attending the Connecticut school for both undergrad and his law degree, instead of staying down south.
Before college, Wray attended Phillips Academy, a boarding school in Andover, Massachusetts.
His father, Cecil Wray, also received a law degree from Yale and was a partner at the New York law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton. His mother, Gilda Gates, was a senior program officer at the Charles Hayden Foundation.
Wray has been married to Helen Wray since 1989, the same year they both graduated from Yale University and before he headed to Yale Law School.
Gilda Wray’s family has lived in Atlanta for generations and her grandfather was a former owner of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Her father was the vice president of the First National Bank of Atlanta.
The couple have two children, Caroline, 22, and Trip, 20.
Wray was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s attorney during the ‘Bridgegate’ scandal.
As the head of the Department of Justice’s criminal division he oversaw the Enron Task Force, which charged Kenneth Lay in 2002 with conspiracy, fraud and making false statements.