Former Senator and Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman is the frontrunner to lead the FBI, Politico and CNN reported on Thursday, citing unnamed sources, following the firing of James Comey.
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Trump said Thursday he was close to selecting a new FBI director and that Lieberman was among the top candidates.
Speaking to reporters at the beginning of a meeting with President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, Trump said: "We're very close" to picking an FBI director. Asked if Lieberman was one of his top candidates, Trump said: "He is."
Lieberman a 75-year-old an Orthodox Jew, was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000, the first Jewish candidate on a presidential ticket. He later became a political maverick on Capitol Hill, when, in 2006, he ended his official affiliation with the hawkish wing of the Democratic Party and became an independent. He backed Republican presidential nominee John McCain in 2008, angering many of his former Democratic colleagues by endorsing him at the Republican National Convention. However, he supported and campaigned for Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, in 2016.
Since retiring from the Senate in 2012, Lieberman has practiced criminal defense and investigative law at Kasowitz, Benson, Torres and Friedman, a law firm which has represented Trump several times in the past. He also holds a chair in public policy at Yeshiva University. In January, he was the target of liberal scorn when he testified in favor of Trump’s choice for Education Secretary, Betsy Devos, in her Senate confirmation hearings.
Lieberman told CNN on Wednesday that the news he was being considered for the appointment "was not sought after or expected," and the phone call Tuesday asking him to fly into Washington came as a surprise.
Lieberman met with Trump on Wednesday afternoon.
In addition to Lieberman, the president was set to meet with other candidates for the FBI post. They include former Oklahoma governor Frank A. Keating, former FBI official Richard A. McFeely, and the current acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, who stepped in after Comey was fired, according to Spicer.
The Trump White House is under pressure to find a candidate who is likely to win Senate approval quickly and without controversy, and time is short for him to do so before leaving on his nine-day foreign trip. In doing so, he will need to find a director who is not considered a political partisan and so able to fairly navigate the stormy political atmosphere following the firing of Comey, and deal with an ongoing investigation into those in the highest positions of power as the FBI continues to probe Russian interference into the presidential election and the possibility of White House collusion.
Trump’s first choice for the FBI job was reportedly Republican senator John Cornyn, but Cornyn took himself out of the running for the post.