Senate Overwhelmingly Approves New FBI Director, 11th Circuit Judge

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved President Donald Trump’s nominee for FBI director, as well as a new judge to serve on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Senate approved Christopher Wray as FBI director on Tuesday afternoon with a 92-5 vote, less than two weeks after the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to send his nomination before the full Senate. Wray will replace former FBI Director James Comey, who Trump fired on May 9.

Comey’s firing is one of the landmarks of the multiple investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, with Trump telling NBC News’ Lester Holt that he had the Russia investigations in mind when he decided to fire Comey. The firing also cause Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee investigations into Russian interference in the election.

Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley, Elizabeth Warren and Ron Wyden all voted against the nomination.

Wray served under Comey as assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division during the Bush Administration and has been a partner at the law firm King & Spalding since 2005. While with the firm Wray represented New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during the Bridgegate scandal.

“I congratulate Mr. Wray on his confirmation to head the nation’s top investigative agency and am proud to have led his nomination through the Judiciary Committee, where he earned unanimous support,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement. “As I have said before, Mr. Wray’s impressive legal resume and extensive experience fighting crime and corruption as a prosecutor will serve him and the American people well in his new capacity.”

Shortly after confirming Wray, the Senate approved Kevin Newsom to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit by a 66-31 vote. Newsom previously served as Alabama’s Solicitor General before working as a partner at the Birmingham, Ala., firm Bradley, Arant, Boult and Cummings.

Newsom cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee 18-2 earlier this month, despite questions from Democrats about his comments calling Roe v. Wade the “most infamous” of the Supreme Court’s privacy decisions and connecting it to Dred Scott.

Newsom also faced questions about his role with the Federalist Society, a conservative law and policy group from which Trump has drawn a number of his judicial nominees.

The two nominees could be the first in a string of Trump selections to receive Senate approval in the coming days, as Senate leadership has struck a deal on a “robust” package of nominations for the chamber to approve before senators leave Washington for the August recess.

“Now that health care is over I have told [Senate Majority] Leader [Mitch] McConnell we will agree on a robust package of nominees,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters Tuesday. “When they weren’t doing regular order on health care we were not going to do regular order on the things they wanted and then they say to us no regular order on the most important thing we’re facing.”

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