By Matt Zapotosky and John Wagner,
President Trump will meet Wednesday with four candidates to succeed James B. Comey as FBI director, including former senator Joe Lieberman, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday.
In addition to Lieberman, the president will meet with former Oklahoma governor Frank A. Keating, who worked previously as a U.S. attorney and as the No. 3 official in the Justice Department; Richard A. McFeely, a former FBI official who spent more than two decades in the bureau; and acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, who has taken over for Comey in the short term.
Last Saturday, top Justice Department officials interviewed eight people — though Lieberman, Keating and McFeely were not among the names made public that day. A Justice Department official said the attorney general has now also met with them. It was not immediately clear how many candidates Trump plans to interview.
Trump has said he could make a “fast decision” on who will take over the top role at the nation’s premier law enforcement agency — perhaps even deciding before he leaves for a foreign trip Friday. The position is particularly important because the FBI is leading the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin to influence the outcome.
Whoever Trump picks will have to win Senate confirmation, and that will likely require demonstrating a willingness to be independent from Trump. Former director Comey alleged in a memo — the details of which were made public Tuesday — that Trump asked him to shut down an FBI investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Trump fired Comey from his post last week.
Of those on the latest list, Lieberman might be the most controversial — even though he identified as a Democrat for most of his political career and was even the party’s nominee for vice president in 2000. He ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004 and became an independent in 2006.
Legislators on both sides of the aisle have expressed wariness about having a politician lead the FBI, and a Senate Democratic leadership aide said Lieberman would not be exempt from that.
Lieberman was Connecticut’s attorney general decades ago.
“There couldn’t be worse time to take the unprecedented step of handing the FBI over to a politician,” the aide said. “That includes Senator Lieberman.”
As a former governor, Keating could also be considered a politician, but he also has Justice Department credentials, having worked as an FBI agent, U.S. attorney and associate attorney general.
McFeely retired from the FBI in 2014; most recently, he led the Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch. He was the lead case agent on the Oklahoma City federal building bombing in 1995, when Keating was governor, and he was the FBI’s on-scene commander after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon.
McCabe seems an unlikely choice. At a recent congressional hearing, he contradicted the White House on a number of critical topics and asserted that he considered the probe of possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump team during the 2016 election campaign a “highly significant investigation.”
But he also said there had been “no effort to impede our investigation to date” — which would seem to be good news for a White House that now faces suggestions that the president might have attempted to obstruct justice.
Efforts to reach each of the candidates was not immediately successful.