Former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman has withdrawn from consideration for the role of FBI director. Lieberman interviewed last week with US President Donald Trump, who publicly identified him as a leading candidate.
But Lieberman, an orthodox Jew, said he’s pulling out in a letter sent to the White House.
He said being considered for the post was a “great honor” amid his “enormous respect” for the FBI and the work it does, but that he wants to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, given Trump’s hiring of Lieberman law partners Marc Kasowitz to represent him in the investigation of ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Kasowitz — who also represents ousted Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly — is the founding and managing partner of Kasowitz Benson Torres.
David Friedman, whom Trump appointed as the US ambassador to Israel, was formerly a partner in the firm.
The White House declined to comment. Several other people interviewed for the job have also withdrawn from consideration.
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) May 25, 2017
Trump fired former FBI director James Comey earlier this month in an abrupt move that caused a political uproar and accusations that the president was trying to interfere with the FBI investigation into suspicions members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the presidential elections last year.
The president has tried to dismiss the matter as a partisan witch hunt and a “hoax.” He also called Comey a “nut job” in a conversation earlier this month at the White House with senior Russian officials — in which he also revealed classified intel provided by Israel — and said the FBI director’s dismissal took pressure off the investigation.
The Trump White House has faced other scandals including a report that Trump had urged Comey to shut down the investigation into the Russia ties of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, according to a memo Comey wrote after their meeting, following Flynn’s departure in February.
The Justice Department last week appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller to lead the investigation into possible Trump-Russia collusion. Mueller will have sweeping powers and the authority to prosecute any crimes he uncovers.
Lieberman was the first Jew to ever appear on a presidential ballot when, in 2000, Al Gore elected him as his running mate.
Lieberman served in the Senate for more than two decades. He lost his 2006 Democratic primary bid but won Senate re-election as a third party candidate, and became known for his hawkishness on foreign policy.
Lieberman spoke at the 2008 Republican National Convention on behalf of his friend, Arizona Sen. John McCain, and did not seek re-election in 2012. He has served as co-chairman of No Labels, a centrist group that promotes bipartisanship.