Christopher Wray in 2005 (AP file)
NEW YORK (FOX 5 NEWS) - President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he is nominating a private attorney and former Justice Department official to be the next director of the FBI.
This is a unique time to take the role of FBI director. Christopher Wray, 50, would step into a job where the president controversially fired his predecessor and a special counsel is currently conducting a separate investigation of his own.
Wray is a former assistant attorney general, former federal prosecutor, and currently a high-powered criminal defense attorney. Among his list of clients is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
"I know every lawyer who's got any prominence in the federal system from my time as U.S. attorney," Christie told reporters. "When I had to retain legal counsel during a very, very troubling, confusing, difficult time for me, I made one phone call, and that was to Chris Wray."
During the Bridgegate scandal and later trial, Wray was Christie's personal attorney. New Jersey taxpayers shelled out more than $1.5 million to Wray's firm, King & Spalding, from 2015 until now, according to the Asbury Park Press.
"It is a great honor to be selected by the President to return to the Department of Justice as Director of the FBI," Wray said in a statement released by the White House. "I look forward to serving the American people with integrity as the leader of what I know firsthand to be an extraordinary group of men and women who have dedicated their careers to protecting this country."
Wray's nomination is seen as counter-programming to the upcoming Senate testimony of the man he would replace, James Comey.
President Trump described his selection as someone with "impeccable credentials." He announced the pick in a single tweet early in the morning. It came as a surprise to many on Capitol Hill.
"I don't know the guy but I looked at his resume," Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said. "He seems like, to me, he's the perfect kind of person."
Wray led the Criminal Division of the U.S. Justice Department during the administration of President George W. Bush. He is known for overseeing the Enron prosecution task force and playing a major role in the department's response to the September 11, 2001, attacks.
"During his previous service at the Department of Justice, Christopher was the leader of major fraud investigations, and was a key part of the team overseeing the Justice Department's actions in the war on terrorism following the 9/11 attacks," President Trump said in a statement released by the White House later in the day. "I know that he will again serve his country as a fierce guardian of the law and model of integrity once the Senate confirms him to lead the FBI."
As head of the FBI, Wray would walk into a turbulent situation. With agents still involved in the Russia investigations, the bureau is ramping up anti-terror operations and is under pressure to find the sources of persistent government leaks.
With many Republicans offering their support, only a few Democrats were publicly critical. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the choice "demands high scrutiny."
Wray earned his undergraduate and law degrees from Yale University.
Wray's notable positions:
Clerk for Judge J. Michael Luttig of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia
Associate Deputy Attorney General
Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General
Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division
Notable former assistant attorneys general in charge of the Criminal Division:
Michael Chertoff; later the secretary of homeland security
Robert Mueller III; later the director of the FBI and currently Justice Department special counsel
William Weld; later the governor of Massachusetts