WASHINGTON -- Christopher Wray has told the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that, if confirmed as the new FBI director, he would fully support the investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Wray, 50, a former top official in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush from 2003 to 2005, was nominated by President Donald Trump on June 7 to lead the domestic security agency after Trump abruptly fired the previous director, James Comey.
Comey had been leading the FBI probe of Russian hacking and meddling into the presidential campaign when he was fired.
Wray on July 12 told the committee he would also continue the probe into contacts between Trump's presidential campaign and Russian officials and other individuals.
Wray said he would fight against any attempt to block the investigation now being carried out by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who was named by the Justice Department as special counsel in the matter.
"I would consider an effort to tamper with Director Mueller's investigation to be unacceptable and inappropriate and would need to be dealt with very sternly and appropriately indeed," Wray told the Senate panel.
"I'm very committed to supporting director Mueller in the special counsel investigation in whatever way is appropriate for me to do that," he said.
Trump has since called the investigation into links between his campaign and transition team to Russia a “hoax” and a “witch hunt,” a claim the president repeated on July 12 on Twitter.
In response to a question, Wray said he did not consider “Mueller to be on a witch hunt."
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham asked about reports that Trump's son, Donald Jr., had met with a Russian lawyer during last year's presidential campaign and what Wray would have done in that situation.
Wray told Graham he would probably want consult with a legal adviser before taking such a meeting.
"Any threat or effort to interfere with our election by any nation state or any nonstate actor is the kind of thing the FBI would want to know," he said.
Wray said he had "no reason" to doubt the U.S. intelligence agencies' conclusion that Russia meddled in the U.S. electoral process.
Over the past decade, Wray has worked in private practice at the King & Spalding law firm in Atlanta, where his clients have included large corporations and financial institutions in criminal and civil cases.
The confirmation hearing was continuing into the afternoon of July 12.
With reporting by AP, Reuters, and dpa