The Next FBI Director: What Happens to the Nomination Now?

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Christopher Wray testified on July 12 before the Senate Judiciary Committee on his nomination to be FBI director. The committee will make a report to the Senate on the nomination. Carlos Barria/REUTERS

Now that Christopher Wray, President Donald Trump's pick to lead the FBI, has testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, it's up to the Senate to decide where the nomination goes.

Since the death of longtime Director J. Edgar Hoover in 1972, the nomination process has worked as follows: A president announces a person to fill the role; that person goes through vetting, including an FBI background check; then the president officially nominates the person by sending the nomination to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Following a hearing or hearings, the committee then votes on whether to report the nomination to the rest of the Senate as favorable, unfavorable or without recommendation; after the committee makes that report, the Senate can vote on the nomination. To be confirmed, a nominee needs a simple majority of at least 51 out of 100 votes. The Congressional Research Service outlined the process in a 2014 report.

Related: FBI director nominee weighs in on Trump Jr. meeting

In the post-Hoover era, the average length of time between the nomination and confirmation of a director has been 20 days, excluding the special second appointment of Robert Mueller, which took just one day, according to the Congressional Research Service. The process involving James Comey, the most recent director (Trump fired him in May), took the longest: 38 days.

Presidents have twice withdrawn nominations in that period, in 1973 and 1977. In the first case, President Richard Nixon withdrew the nomination of L. Patrick Gray, who had been acting FBI director, after senators opposed his appointment. "The Gray nomination became the focus of a bitter, partisan struggle in the Senate almost from the moment it was announced by the White House six weeks ago," The New York Times reported at the time. Ten days after the withdrawal, Gray resigned among revelations that he had "destroyed papers from the White House safe of E. Howard Hunt, the former CIA operative who organized the Watergate break-in," according to his obituary in The Washington Post.

The second case was less fraught: Frank M. Johnson Jr. asked President Jimmy Carter to withdraw his nomination after he had heart surgery and faced a long recovery. Carter later made Johnson a judge on the United States Court of Appeals.

At the end of Wednesday's four-and-a-half-hour hearing, the committee did not indicate when it will vote and make its report to the rest of the Senate. If the Senate does not vote on the nomination before its August recess, it will not be able to so until the lawmakers return in September.

Under President George W. Bush, Wray was assistant U.S. attorney general overseeing the criminal division at the Department of Justice. He is now a lawyer at the firm King and Spalding. Speaking with Newsweek, more than a dozen people close to Wray praised his nomination. But some Democrats have questioned his having represented New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is a Trump ally, and his law firm's reported representation of Rosneft and Gazprom, two Russian companies that are under U.S. sanctions. A partner at the firm is the ethics adviser to Trump's business trust, Democrats have also pointed out.

The Next FBI Director: What Happens to the Nomination Now? | U.S.