News Column

Obama Picks Ex-Bush Official to Head FBI

May 29, 2013
James Comey

President Obama plans to nominate James Comey, a former senior Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, to replace Robert Mueller as the next director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to a government official knowledgeable of the nomination.

The official, who was not authorized to comment on the pending announcement, said Obama picked Comey over a list of candidates that included Lisa Monaco, who has been the White House top counterterrorism adviser since January.

The White House declined to comment on the pending appointment.

Comey, who previously served as deputy attorney general and supervised operations for the Justice Department, was a key player in one of the most dramatic moments of the Bush administration. In 2004, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and White House chief of staff, Andrew Card, tried to persuade Attorney General John Ashcroft -- who was ill with acute pancreatitis -- to reauthorize a warrantless eavesdropping program while in his hospital bed.

Comey learned of Gonzales and Card's plan and rushed to Ashcroft's hospital room, along with Mueller. Both threatened to resign if the White House renewed the program. As a result, it was not reauthorized.

Mueller, who took over at the FBI a week before the 9/11 attacks, agreed in 2011, at Obama's request, to extend his term by up to two years. He is the longest serving FBI director since J. Edgar Hoover.

Konrad Motyka, president of the FBI Agents Association, which represents more than 12,000 agents, said Comey "has an outstanding reputation among FBI agents, and we look forward to working with him on the wide array of challenges facing our country."

The selection of Comey became more certain in the past month as the administration faced questions about the future of the agency and the bureau's handling of early concerns about one of the suspects in the the Boston Marathon bombings.

Comey currently is a senior research scholar and fellow on national security at Columbia University's law school. He served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and recently stepped down as general counsel at Bridgewater Associates, a Westport, Conn., hedge fund.

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Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

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