00:57 - Source: CNN
Wray: No whiff of interference in Russia probe

Story highlights

Wray said he had no reason to doubt the intelligence community's report alleging Russian interference in the election

He said he did "a lot of leak investigations" when he worked in government before

Washington CNN  — 

Newly minted FBI Director Chris Wray vouched on Thursday for the independence of former FBI Director Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“I can say very confidently that I have not detected any whiff of interference with that investigation,” Wray said at the Intelligence and National Security Summit in Washington.

Wray said he has “enormous respect” for Mueller and confidence in the team Mueller has assembled.

“He’s really running that investigation,” Wray said of Mueller. “The FBI have dedicated agents to it and other support to it. So there’s a great group of people working on it.”

Mueller was appointed special counsel in May to lead the investigation into potential coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump’s to meddle with the 2016 campaign.

Trump has denied all wrongdoing and decried the investigation as a witch hunt. Reports say Mueller’s investigation has expanded to include a review of Trump’s finances and whether the President committed obstruction of justice over his behavior with former FBI Director James Comey.

Wray’s comments at the summit came as part of a panel of key national security figures.

Wray, who was seated next to NSA Director Mike Rogers, said he has confidence in the intelligence community’s abilities and said he accepts the findings of the bombshell report from the intelligence community in January that accused Russia of attempting to meddle in the 2016 election to help Trump and hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton.

He said he reviewed the unclassified version of the report as he went through the confirmation process, and that since his swearing-in, he has “had the opportunity to see a lot more” that bolstered his confidence in the intelligence community report.

“I have no reason to doubt the conclusions that the hardworking people who put that together came to,” Wray said of the January report.

Trump has wavered publicly on the conclusions of that report, and Russia has denied meddling in the election.

Leaks and surveillance

Wray presented the contemporary FBI as an agency working closely with the broader intelligence community. He spoke briefly on several points in agreement with the intelligence figures on the panel, highlighting his view of the importance of keeping closely held information secret and calling on Congress to keep in place surveillance powers for the government.

Asked about unauthorized disclosures of classified information, Wray confirmed it is a “high priority” he has experience dealing with.

“Having done a lot of leak investigations when I was in government before, more often than not the leaks are not coming from somebody who is in the inside circle of knowledge,” Wray said.

Both Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have likewise made clear they view a crackdown on leaks as a top administration priority.

On surveillance, both Wray and the NSA’s Rogers stressed their belief that Congress needs to reauthorize section 702 of FISA before it expires at the end of the year. That section establishes rules for the government to conduct surveillance on foreign targets and, in the process, can sweep up information on US citizens.

Rogers said he told Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday that the program needs to be continued.

“If this was removed and it was not reauthorized – it currently is set to expire the December 31, 2017 – I can’t overcome that,” Rogers said he told Pence.

Wray echoed Rogers’ defense of the program, saying it is an important tool to detect and prevent quickly moving threats.

CNN’s Alex Gee contributed to this report.