Here’s something that’s way more fun than any episode of The Apprentice: How many candidates are there for the now-vacant position of Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation? Who has been interviewed and who has dropped out? Who has been told “you’re fired!” before even getting the job? President Donald Trump’s dismissal of former Director, James Comey, has sparked an avalanche of speculation and conflicting reports. The current odds-on favorite seems to be Joseph Lieberman, the former Independent United States Senator from Connecticut and former Democratic Party vice-presidential nominee.
Over the past few days, media reports show numbers of candidates for the job has been fluctuating wildly; ranging from four or five to as many as fourteen. At least three prominent figures, who were the subject of much speculation, have removed themselves from the running or have simply been discounted.
According to a report in Fortune, South Carolina Republican, Trey Gowdy, removed himself from the running on Monday. Gowdy, who had wide support from within the law enforcement community, said that he “would not be the right person” for the job. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) has also informed the White House that he is not interested in leading the Bureau. In a statement Tuesday, the Senator said, “I’ve informed the administration that I’m committed to helping them find such an individual, and that the best way I can serve is continuing to fight for a conservative agenda in the U.S. Senate.”
Another prominent potential candidate was Merrick Garland, a judge who entered the spotlight when former President Barack Obama nominated him for the then vacant U.S. Supreme Court seat. According to several media reports, Republican Senator Mike Lee first suggested Garland for the appointment and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell supported his candidacy. Garland “illustrates the kind of person I hope and expect will come next, somebody with deep credentials in criminal justice and criminal justice enforcement, completely apolitical and in line with prior FBI directors,” said McConnell.
At least three additional candidates remain in the running. On Wednesday, Richard McFeely, Frank Keating and the current acting FBI director, Andrew McCabe, were interviewed at the White House. McFeely is a former senior FBI official and Keating was the governor of Oklahoma from 1995 until 2003.
In recent decades, FBI Directors have been recruited from the legal profession, as opposed to the political arena. Joe Lieberman, although currently a senior council with a law firm that has represented Trump himself for several years, is far better known for his political career. He is, perhaps, best known for being picked by Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore as a running mate in 2000. The Gore-Lieberman ticket was ultimately unsuccessful against George W. Bush, in a hotly disputed general election. In 2004, Lieberman failed in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Not always embraced by liberals, Lieberman later switched from Democrat to Independent, although he caucused with Senate Democrats. Prior to his time in the Senate, He served as Attorney General for the state of Connecticut from 1982 to 1988.
As the apparent front-runner for FBI Director, Lieberman seems to enjoy more support from Republicans than Democrats. Commenting on the prospect of the president picking Lieberman, Missouri Democratic Senator, Claire McCaskill said “I don’t think there’s going to be much excitement about that from our side of the aisle.” According to a Politico report, she added “we need a law enforcement professional…we don’t need anyone who’s put on a red shirt or a blue shirt, or who’s campaigned for president.”
Conversely, South Carolina Republican Senator, Lindsey Graham, said “if the president picked Joe Lieberman, he’d be doing [the] country a good service and, I think, the FBI a good service.” Graham is not the only Republican backing Lieberman’s nomination.
To be sure, the entire business of dealing with the nation’s premier law enforcement agency has become another thorn in the side of President Trump. The firing of James Comey has been met with consternation from both sides of the aisle, even though the former FBI chief was criticized by both Democrats and Republicans, in recent months. Now it has become clear that Trump’s pick to replace Comey is, also, likely to appease neither party.