US President Donald Trump indicated Thursday that onetime Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman is the favorite to become the next head of the FBI, after the shock dismissal of James Comey last week.
Asked whether the 75-year-old was a front-runner, Trump responded “yes” — confirming Lieberman’s surprise candidacy.
Trump has said he could name a new director before he leaves the country Friday for the Middle East, on his first overseas trip as president.
Lieberman, who is Jewish and staunchly pro-Israel, is a former independent senator from Connecticut, who ran on a ticket with Democrat Al Gore in 2000. The two were defeated by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
In 2008, Lieberman endorsed Republican John McCain.
The choice of a new FBI director will be closely scrutinized, with the administration thrown into turmoil by a succession of stunning allegations against Trump, most damagingly that he may have obstructed justice by asking Comey to drop a probe into one of his top advisers.
The Senate must confirm whomever Trump nominates for the job.
Trump say he's close to picking a nominee for FBI director pic.twitter.com/2cMOhGJd9n
— POLITICO (@politico) May 18, 2017
Trump and Lieberman discussed the position at the White House on Wednesday. Lieberman gave reporters a thumbs-up as he left the White House and said he and the president had a “good meeting.”
Lieberman, a Democrat who turned Independent until he quit the Senate in 2013, works for a law firm, one of whose partners — Marc Kasowitz — has represented Trump for years.
Another partner in the same firm is David Friedman, Trump’s new ambassador to Israel.
The Politico website said Lieberman would be an unusual pick.
At 75, he is a little old for a job that usually carries a ten-year term. And he is a politician, which would be unusual for the job.
In the past, Lieberman has adopted a number of foreign policy positions more closely aligned with the Republicans, supporting the war in Iraq and backing action against Iran.
The president interviewed three other potential FBI director candidates Wednesday: former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, former top FBI official Richard McFeely and Andrew McCabe. McCabe became acting director after Trump fired James Comey as director last week.
Keating, a Republican, was a two-term governor of Oklahoma and led the state during the deadly 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City. A former FBI agent, Keating served in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
McCabe became acting director following Comey’s dismissal May 9. The veteran FBI official made headlines for congressional testimony last week that rejected the White House’s claim that Comey had lost the support of rank-and-file agents. He also disputed the administration’s characterization of an investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump White House.