All of Washington has been transfixed by the emails revealing that Donald Trump, Jr. took a meeting with a lawyer said to have ties to the Russian government to get dirt on Hillary Clinton during his father’s election campaign last year. All, that is, except—apparently—for Christopher Wray, US president Donald Trump’s nominee for head of the FBI.
Wray said during his Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday that he had “missed” the news about the emails, which Trump Jr. himself released on Twitter this week, and therefore couldn’t comment on whether the president’s son should have taken the meeting. Legal analysts from both sides of the political spectrum have argued that the meeting shows the Trump administration sought Russian aid in the 2016 campaign. That could be a federal crime and—if real information was offered, which Trump Jr. has said it wasn’t—could imply a laundry list of other crimes too.
Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina, asked Wray whether he had heard of Trump Jr.’s “email problems.”
“I have not,” Wray said, adding that he’d been too busy meeting with Graham’s colleagues (senators sometimes meet privately with nominees for top jobs before their public hearings) and had “missed that.”
Graham then read read out the emails, in which the president’s son agrees to a meeting with someone described as a “Russian government attorney” who claimed to have incriminating information and documents about Hillary Clinton, as part of the Russian government’s “support for Mr. Trump.” Should Trump Jr have taken the meeting, Graham asked?
Wray replied, “Senator, I’m hearing for the first time your description of it, so I’m not really in a position to speak to it.”
Pressed on the topic later by senator Christopher Coons of Delaware, Wray said he hadn’t “read the email,” or “had the chance to read the news coverage,” because he’d been too “busy moving to different Senate buildings.”
People get too busy to follow what’s happening in the news all the time, of course, and there are plenty of Americans who say they have deliberately stopped watching political news in recent months.
But Wray is a nominee to run the FBI, which is conducting its own investigation into the Trump administration’s possible ties with Russia. Job interview preparation basics would suggest he should have read up on the topic, and prepared an answer to a question about the very latest news. It is also difficult to believe he could avoided seeing the wall-to-wall coverage of the Trump Jr. story, which is everywhere from national newspapers to network shows to Fox News and the Drudge Report, and is the subject of constant speculation and analysis in Washington, DC.
In claiming he missed the news, Wray is echoing the behavior of many Republican Congress members, who have been avoiding reporters’ questions on Trump Jr. entirely.
The Senate requires only a simple majority (51 votes) to confirm Wray, and the Republicans hold 52 seats. If no Republican senator is put off by what looks like either ignorance or evasiveness on his part about the Trump Jr emails, or he picks up Democratic senators’ votes, Wray could sail through.