President Donald Trump is seeking new candidates to replace fired FBI Director James Comey, broadening the search after at least two rounds of interviews with more than ten contenders for the post, a senior administration official said Wednesday.
Administration sources had previously described former Sen. Joe Lieberman as the leading prospect for the high-profile job, but he ran into resistance from Democrats who questioned the wisdom of installing a former politician as FBI director, particularly as the agency grapples with a politically sensitive probe into possible ties between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign.
Story Continued Below
Lieberman is no longer considered the frontrunner, an official said. CNN first reported that Trump was resetting his search for someone to replace Comey, who was fired as he led the probe into Trump’s associates.
It was not immediately clear whether the expanded FBI director search was due to dissatisfaction with those interviewed, hurdles related to specific candidates, or several candidates taking themselves out of contention.
The interview process had been unusual, with eight candidates braving a media gauntlet at the Justice Department on a Saturday for interviews with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein. Among those interviewed were Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich), former homeland security adviser Fran Townsend and New York state judge Michael Garcia.
A few days later, it appeared Trump was looking at different candidates. The White House announced the president was meeting with Lieberman, former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, former FBI official Richard McFeely, and current FBI acting director Andrew McCabe.
Townsend, who sat down for an interview with POLITICO’s Women Rule podcast this week, said it was notable that Trump is looking at female contenders for the position. “The fact that women are in that mix says a lot about how far we’ve come. That hasn’t been true before,” she said.
Justice Department Criminal Division Chief Alice Fisher was also briefly a contender, before she pulled her name from consideration last week. Cornyn and Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, have also pulled out of the running.
Trump had hoped to hire someone before leaving last week for his first foreign trip as president, but that effort stalled when Lieberman faced pushback. The administration also is dealing with the DOJ’s decision to appoint a special counsel to look into Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign, which has slowed the FBI hiring process.