Trump fired Comey Tuesday
Here's a look at who could replace the FBI director
President Donald Trump is considering a host of Republican lawmakers, law enforcement veterans and legal minds to lead the FBI in the wake of his unexpected – and unceremonious – firing of James Comey.
Comey’s departure has cast a pall over the Trump administration. The White House has struggled to answer why Trump fired Comey now, botched the roll-out of Comey’s hasty departure and have angered some by pinning the decision on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s memo written for Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The saga has also created a practical problem for Trump: How does a controversial President get what will surely be an even more controversial nomination through a Congress where there is bipartisan revulsion at his decision to fire Comey?
Senior administration officials told CNN that names for a permanent replacement are already under consideration. The process will be contentious, an administration official told CNN, but they think they will be able to find a consensus pick that satisfies Congress.
But that’s a tall order since Democrats are already suggesting they will protest any Trump FBI pick until Rosenstein names a special prosecutor to delve into Russia’s role in the 2016 election and any possible connection the hackers could have had to Trump or his associates.
The Justice Department, according to multiple White House officials, is currently considering who to name as an interim pick for the job. An official added that the process, led by Sessions and Rosenstein, has zeroed in on Michael Anderson, a special agent in charge of the Chicago office; Paul Abbate, the assistant director in charge of FBI field office in Washington; Adam Lee, a special agent in charge of Richmond, Virginia field division and William Evanina, head of counterintelligence at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
But before long, Trump will have to name someone to serve out the FBI director’s 10-year term. Here are some people the Trump administration is considering to replace Comey:
Former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte was no Trump fan during the 2016 campaign. And she arguably lost her Senate seat to Democrat Maggie Hassan in November because of how she handled Trump’s candidacy.
But a source close to Ayotte says she began to repair her relationship with Trump during the administration’s successful attempt to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, which Ayotte spearheaded.
A source close to Ayotte says she hasn’t heard anything from the White House about the FBI position, which casts doubt over how closely she is being considered.
Before her six years in the Senate, Ayotte served as New Hampshire’s attorney general, where she prosecuted a host of murder cases, including the 2006 murder of Michael Briggs, a Manchester police officer.
More than others on this list, Ayotte would have a good chance of getting through the Senate because she is a former member of the traditionally collegial legislative body.
Should Ayotte get the job, she would be the first woman to lead the FBI.
As the former administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, Pistole carved out a reputation as a straight-shooter who easily worked with both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Proof: The Obama administration’s nomination of Pistole to lead the TSA was agreed to unanimously in the Senate.
Pistole, said one source close to Trump, is viewed as the pragmatic choice for FBI director. Another source confirmed he is being seriously considered for the job, in part, because he would be politically palatable to both sides of the aisle.
Pistole also served as deputy director of the FBI under former president George W. Bush.
He joined the FBI in 1983, serving at the bureau for 26 years until he was confirmed as TSA head in July 2010. While at the FBI he also worked at the bureau’s executive assistant director for national security.
Unlike other options on this list, it is unclear whether Pistole even backed a presidential candidate in 2016.
Pistole currently works as the president of Anderson University in Indiana, his alma mater.
Rogers is the rare name on this list who combines Republican credentials and experience at the FBI.
A former congressman from Michigan who chaired the House Intelligence Committee, Rogers is also a former FBI agent. Rogers spent five years as a special agent at the FBI’s Chicago office where the Army veteran primarily investigated organized crime.
Rogers currently works as a CNN national security contributor.
Currently a partner at Latham & Watkins in Washington, Fisher previously served as assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal division under President George W. Bush.
A senior administration official tells CNN that she is being considered for the FBI job, in part, because of her experience leading the criminal division at the Justice Department.
But Fisher’s appointment to that Bush administration job was far from unanimous: 35 senators, all Democrats or independents, voted against her nomination.
Fisher has other investigative experience, too. She served as deputy special counsel to the Senate special committee that investigated President Bill Clinton’s role in the Whitewater scandal regarding a 1990s-real estate deal in Arkansas.
Like Ayotte, should Fisher get the job, she would be the first woman to serve as FBI director.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, like Rogers, has both Republican bona fides and law enforcement experience.
While a senior administration official says the South Carolina Republican is being considered for the job, it is understood that he would almost certainly face pushback from Democrats because of his role in investigating Hillary Clinton for the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, would electrify Trump’s Republican base. Several blogs even started petitions urging Trump to appoint Gowdy director of the FBI.
But like other partisan picks Trump could make, Gowdy would face near impossible odds of getting through the Senate, especially considering the reservations some Republicans have in Trump’s handling of Comey’s departure.
Gowdy received an unexpected endorsement for FBI chief on Wednesday, however, when South Carolina Democrat Bakari Sellers, a CNN political analyst, endorsed him for the job.
“Dems are going to hate me for this. I don’t care. The best replacement for Comey is Trey Gowdy,” he tweeted. “He’s as honest as day is long.”