Trump FBI pick Christopher Wray testifies no one asked him for 'loyalty oath'

Christopher Wray was nominated in June after the firing of James Comey.

"My loyalty is to the Constitution, the rule of law and to the mission of the FBI," Christopher Wray said in response to questioning this morning by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. "No one asked me for any kind of loyalty oath at any point during this process and I sure as heck didn't offer one."

Comey later testified that President Trump said, "I need loyalty" and "I expect loyalty" during a private dinner between the two in January -- a conversation he said included discussion of the director's continued employment, which Trump has denied.

On the topic of Mueller's investigation, Wray declared his respect for the special counsel and said he would be "very committed" to supporting him. He additionally dismissed the suggestion that the probe would face interference under his watch.

"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," Wray said.

In a particularly spirited exchange with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Wray was asked about a hypothetical situation in which the senator was presented with the kind of opportunity that the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., faced in a series of emails in June 2016.

Donald Trump Jr. released screenshots of the emails Tuesday apparently showing how he was offered, and accepted, the chance to meet with a person who was said to be a Russian government attorney who had incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.

"I would think you would want to consult with some good legal advisers before you did that," Wray said.

Further pressed by Graham, he added, "To the members of this committee, any threat or effort to interfere with our elections from any nation state or any non-state actor is the kind of thing the FBI would want to know."

As the hearing continued on the subject of the Russia investigation, Wray was asked to respond to Trump's efforts to label the probe as fruitless -- "I do not consider Director Mueller to be on a witch hunt," he said -- and whether he understands the challenges faced by the FBI in a tumultuous time.

"I fully understand that this is not a job for the faint of heart and I can assure this committee, I am not faint of heart," Wray said.

He also said, "I believe to my core that there's only one right way to do this job and that is with strict independence, by the book, playing it straight, faithful to the Constitution, faithful to our laws and faithful to the best practices of the institution. Without fear, without favoritism and certainly without regard to any partisan political influence."

Formerly an assistant attorney general under President George W. Bush, Wray now works as a lawyer in private practice. He was nominated by Trump in June to lead the FBI.

The position of FBI director carries a 10-year term and requires Senate confirmation by a majority of 51 votes.