ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE - U.S. President Donald Trump has selected Christopher Wray, a former federal prosecutor, as his nominee to run the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday the nomination is based on Wray's reputation and strong support across the political divide.
Trump chose Wray in part because of "the amount of praise across the board, bipartisan praise that we've seen, again, from Democrat senators and members talking about the credibility of Wray," Sanders told reporters aboard Air Force One. "I think that shows a great choice and that the president made the right choice in picking him."
Sanders added that the president "really was impressed with him."
Trump, asked by reporters about Wray at an airport in Cincinnati, Ohio, replied "He's going to be great."
In a break with tradition, Trump revealed his selection Wednesday morning on Twitter prior to a quick trip to the Ohio River waterfront to deliver a speech on the need to upgrade waterways and other parts of the country's infrastructure.
I will be nominating Christopher A. Wray, a man of impeccable credentials, to be the new Director of the FBI. Details to follow.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 7, 2017
If approved by Congress, Wray would replace James Comey, whom Trump fired.
The president's announcement comes one day before Comey is to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
According to an advance copy of his opening statement released Wednesday, Comey is to say that the president asked him the day after Trump fired Michael Flynn as his national security adviser to "let go" of the investigation into ties between the retired army lieutenant general and Russia.
Senators are to question Comey about Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 election, including Trump's alleged attempts to get Comey to stop investigating possible collusion between Trump associates and Russia.
Wray led the Justice Department's criminal division from 2003 to 2005 during the administration of George W. Bush. He led probes into corporate fraud at a time when Comey was deputy attorney general, and supervised a task force of prosecutors and FBI agents created to investigate the Enron Corporation accounting scandal. That case resulted in the imprisonment of several executives.
Wray, 50, is now a criminal defense attorney at a law firm in Atlanta, Georgia.
He also was retained by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, an ally of the president, during an investigation of a politically motivated traffic lane closing. Two Christie aides were convicted of plotting to close bridge lanes in retaliation against a Democratic mayor who refused to endorse the governor.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a statement Wednesday applauding the president's selection of Wray, saying he is "committed to the rule of law" and "is dedicated to protecting the American people from crime, gangs and terrorists."
Wray's nomination will end a search process that has seen several contenders withdraw their names from consideration as director of the nation's primary law enforcement agency.
The Twitter announcement by Trump surprised not only key members of Congress whose support could be critical for Wray's confirmation, but also many senior White House officials.
Sanders said White House officials were made aware of the decision "at the appropriate time in order to do our jobs." She did not respond when asked if she first learned about the selection via the presidential tweet.
VOA's Wayne Lee contributed to this report.