At the end of his first year in office, FBI director Christopher Wray says he is “trying to bring calm [and] stability” to an agency under fire from the president.
In his first year as FBI director, Christopher Wray has focused his agents on the nitty-gritty of their jobs and avoided the distractions from controversies buffeting the agency. “My big point of emphasis has been that even though we live in tumultuous, turbulent times, I’m trying to bring calm, stability—dare I say it—normalcy, in an environment where I think there’s an appetite for that,” Wray tells the Wall Street Journal. Wray’s leadership style is a sharp departure from how his predecessor, James Comey, ran the 37,000-employee FBI. Some agents say Wray’s style is so low-key that employees aren’t always sure of his expectations.
Of his relationship with the president, Wray said, “It’s professional,” and declined to address Trump’s tweets savaging special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe and the Justice Department. “Social media commentary has its place, but that’s not what drives our work,” said Wray, who expressed support for Mueller and has declared the special counsel investigation isn’t a witch hunt. Wray, 51, begins his day with a briefing on threats, such as Russian interference in U.S. elections, and Chinese efforts to steal government and business secrets. FBI agents are tracking thousands of potential terrorists. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), a frequent FBI critic, applauded Wray for working to change the bureau culture, calling him part of the “cleanup squad” rather than the “coverup squad.” Some agents pointed to a survey of bureau employees last year finding that morale remained high but confidence in the vision and ideas of Wray and his leadership team were lower than recorded a year earlier under Comey. Wray said the survey painted an incomplete picture, citing employees’ “commitment to the mission, success in the mission, desire to work here.” He pointed to an attrition rate of 0.6%.