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Trump’s FBI pick: 'I do not consider Director Mueller to be on a witch hunt'

FBI Director nominee Christopher Wray is sworn-on on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 12, 2017, prior to testifying at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Christopher Wray assured lawmakers that he intends to restore the organization’s independence and impartiality during a tough confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

Part of the questioning centered around special counsel Robert Mueller's role into alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.

Wray said that he does not view special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia as a "witch hunt," contrary to the Donald Trump's characterization.

"I do not consider Director Mueller to be on a witch hunt," Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Wray was pressed by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) on the series of emails between Donald Trump, Jr. and entertainment publicist Rob Goldstone, which point to an attempt by the Trump campaign to obtain politically damaging information on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.

Wray said he was not in a position to comment on the matter, but suggested that anyone receiving a political offer from a foreign power should "consult some legal advisers" and reach out the the FBI.

"Any threat or effort to interfere with our elections by any nation state or any non-state actor is the kind of thing the FBI would want to know," he said.

Faced with questions about his ability to resist political pressure, Wray told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that he would keep the Bureau “independent” from the throes of politics.

"I believe to my core that there is only one right way to do this job, and that is with strict independence, by the book, playing it straight without fear, without favoritism and certainly without regard to any partisan, political influence," Wray said.

In his opening statement, he assured lawmakers that if he is confirmed to lead the agency, he will "never allow the FBI’s work to be driven by anything other than the facts, the law, and the impartial pursuit of justice. Period. Full stop."

He continued, that if confirmed, he will "lead an independent Bureau that will make every American proud.”

Wray's confirmation hearing comes at a challenging time for the FBI, which has been at the center of two of the most politically consequential investigations over the past two years. The agency took the lead in investigating Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, and is currently looking into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

In May, President Trump fired former director James Comey, alleging that he had lost the confidence of the FBI.

In response to the senior Democrat on the Committee, Wray said that using torture on prisoners or detainees is "illegal" and ineffective."

"My view is that torture is wrong, it's unacceptable, it's illegal and I think it's ineffective," Wray stated, adding that he would uphold the previous FBI policy on torture, "that the FBI is going to play no part in the use of any techniques of that sort."

In 2003 Wray served as a senior adviser at the Office of Legal Counsel, the body that narrowed the definition of torture in order to justify certain enhanced interrogation techniques used in the post-9/11 period.

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