Former Justice Official In Line To Be Named FBI Chief
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel. NPR has learned that former Justice Department official James Comey is in line to become the next FBI director. Comey would succeed the current director, Robert Mueller. President Obama is expected to nominate Comey, a Republican who gave money to Obama's opponents in 2008 and 2012. Comey has extensive law enforcement ties and a background that could help him gain bipartisan support in the Senate.
NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson joins us now. And, Carrie, this process to pick a new FBI director went on for some time. Who were the leading candidates?
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Robert, down to the wire, there were two leading candidates. One was Jim Comey, the former deputy attorney general, number two in the Justice Department during the George W. Bush years. And the second finalist was Lisa Monaco. She had led the national security unit in President Obama's Justice Department. Earlier this year, she moved over to the White House to give him advice about homeland security and other issues. The Daily Beast late last week reported she was taking over the task of trying to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, which will keep her more than busy for some time to come.
SIEGEL: Well, what tipped the scales for Jim Comey, in the end?
JOHNSON: Jim Comey is known for being a really straight shooter, Robert. He has big bipartisan credentials and also some credibility on issues of national security, fighting terrorism, prosecuting people responsible for the Khobar Towers bombings, among others. And remember, Khobar Towers was that bombing in Saudi Arabia. But he's also known for protecting civil liberties and fighting for the rule of law.
SIEGEL: Now, Comey is best known for resisting certain surveillance efforts pushed by Vice President Dick Cheney a decade ago. Remind us what happened then.
JOHNSON: So back in 2004, Robert, Vice President Cheney and others wanted to renew authority to use some kind of warrantless wiretapping program involving American citizens. Attorney General John Ashcroft was in the hospital, very sick. And Jim Comey, who was then Ashcroft's deputy, found out that the White House was sending an envoy to Ashcroft's hospital room to try to get Ashcroft sign off on this program. Jim Comey rushed over to the hospital, ran up the stairs to the hospital room and resisted this. Ashcroft wound up siding with Jim Comey and the upper echelon of the entire Justice Department threatened to resign unless the White House backed down, which it did.
SIEGEL: So, Carrie, what you're reporting is that the White House has settled on Comey for FBI director, but they haven't yet made a formal nomination. Why not?
JOHNSON: Robert, my sources tell me Jim Comey has been offered the job officially, and he has accepted it. There are some background check procedures still under way at this point.
SIEGEL: So what comes next?
JOHNSON: The announcement we expect in the next several days, then a confirmation hearing. Robert, the White House needs to get Jim Comey confirmed before the Senate breaks for the summer.
SIEGEL: OK. That's NPR's Carrie Johnson reporting on the news that the White House has settled on James Comey, former Justice Department official in the administration of President George W. Bush, to be the next director of the FBI. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.