Donald Trump

Acting FBI director McCabe and Senator Cornyn among four in running for bureau chief job

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 May, 2017, 5:20pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 May, 2017, 9:43pm

Texas Senator John Cornyn, the second-ranking Senate Republican who has in recent weeks become a more outward defender of US President Donald Trump, and acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, who on Thursday contradicted the Trump White House on a range of topics, will interview on Saturday to serve as the FBI’s permanent director, according to people familiar with the matter.

The men are two of at least four people who will interview to replace James Comey, whom Trump suddenly fired earlier this week, the people said.

The others are Alice Fisher, a white-collar defence lawyer who previously led the Justice Department’s criminal division, and Michael Garcia, a judge on the New York State Court of Appeals who previously served as the US attorney for the Southern District of New York.

All four will be interviewed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the two top officials in the Justice Department.

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The list is not a comprehensive accounting of finalists for the FBI director positions. It is possible other candidates could be considered, officials said, and the ultimate decision falls to Trump. Justice Department officials also have interviewed four other candidates to serve as interim FBI director, though it is possible McCabe could stay on in that role if he were not selected for the permanent job.

The job also requires Senate confirmation. Whoever is selected is appointed to a 10-year term, though they can be removed by the president.

Cornyn, 65, is a former Texas attorney general and state supreme court justice and is serving his third term in the Senate. He serves as Senate majority whip, making him the second-ranking Republican in the chamber. But GOP senators set term limits for leadership posts and his ends at the start of 2019.

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Cornyn is not expected to challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is not term-limited and is widely respected among Republican senators. That means Cornyn is on the verge of hitting a professional ceiling, so the 10-year term of FBI director might be a logical next move.

If Cornyn were selected, there likely would be Democratic concern about handing over the nation’s premier law enforcement agency to a Republican who - despite being considered an affable senator - has served as a prominent partisan attack dog.

Cornyn has in recent weeks become more of an outward defender of Trump. Earlier this week, he dismissed the idea that Trump fired Comey to impede the FBI’s Russia probe, terming it a “phoney narrative.”

“If you assume that, this strikes me as a lousy way to do it,” he said. “All it does is heighten the attention given to the issue.”

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McCabe, who had been the FBI deputy director before Comey was fired, might be a more palatable choice for Democrats. At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday, he heaped praise on his former boss and did not hesitate to rebut narratives advanced by the White House, including its attempt to minimise the Russia probe. He is a long-time FBI agent who led the Washington Field Office before he was elevated to the bureau’s No. 2 post in 2016.

Through an FBI spokesman, he declined to comment.

Fisher and Garcia are both alumni of the George W. Bush administration. Garcia served as assistant secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and as the U.S. attorney for the Souther District of New York, where he led the investigation into a prostitution ring that ultimately forced New York Governor Eliot Spitzer to resign.

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Fisher served as an assistant attorney general, and, if selected, would be the first woman to run the FBI.

Efforts to reach both of them were not successful Friday night.