Last week, Donald Trump fired James Comey because the FBI director had lost the trust of the American people — and because he refused to comport himself as the president’s private detective. According to Comey’s confidantes, Trump asked his FBI director to pledge personal loyalty to him, seven days into his presidency. According to Trump, he was thinking about how much he despised the FBI’s investigation into his campaign when he “decided to just [fire Comey].”
These developments have led some to wonder if the Trump administration might be less-than-wholeheartedly committed to the independence of federal law enforcement. Democrats have responded to such concerns by calling for concrete actions to safeguard the independence of the probe into Trump’s campaign. Meanwhile some Republicans have issued statements assuring the American people that they are deeply concerned and principled (and not committed to doing anything, in particular).
“I think we have a crisis of public trust right now and we need to restore that,” Republican senator Ben Sasse told CBS This Morning. “The FBI director has a ten-year term for a reason, because it’s supposed to be insulated from politics.”
Sasse has not lent his voice to calls for a special prosecutor to take the reigns of the Russia investigation. But he and other elected Republicans agree with Democrats on the more modest request that Trump replace Comey with an “apolitical” figure.
Over the weekend, the White House demonstrated just how seriously it takes concerns about the erosion of public trust: To quell bipartisan fears about the politicization of the FBI, Attorney General Jeff Sessions — who had recused himself from all matters pertaining to the investigation of the Trump campaign (of which he was a member) — interviewed a sitting GOP Senator for the position of FBI director (and thus, for the role of leading the investigation into the Trump campaign).
That senator was Texas’s John Cornyn, a man so invested in an impartial investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia ties, he didn’t ask a single question about that subject at last week’s Senate hearing with James Clapper and former acting attorney general Sally Yates. Instead, Cornyn devoted the entirety of his speaking time to echoing the Trump administration’s concerns about leaks, “unmasking,” the imaginary Susan Rice scandal, and Yates’s traitorous refusal to defend the president’s quasi-Muslim ban.
The Justice Department also interviewed former Republican congressman Mike Rogers for the position. Rogers served as an FBI special agent before leaving the bureau to enter politics in 1995. He held a House seat from 2001 to 2014. On Saturday, Rogers won the endorsement of the FBI Agents Association.
When Devin Nunes recused himself from the House Intelligence Committe’s Russia probe earlier this year — after the Republican congressman essentially sabotaged that investigation — Rogers said that the committee’s ranking Democrat Adam Schiff was “equally to blame for the Committee’s loss of focus.”
According to Bloomberg, Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein interviewed eight candidates in total, and do not currently plan on speaking with any more.
Here are the other six:
Acting FBI director Andrew McCabe: Picking McCabe would qualify as a legitimate gesture of goodwill. Comey’s former deputy director is a career civil servant whose most prominent political ties tether him to the left side of the aisle. In 2015, his wife, Jill McCabe, ran for Virginia’s State Senate as a Democrat — and accepted $500,000 in contributions from the political organization of governor Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton ally. That bit of history led Republicans to demand McCabe recuse himself from the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server. McCabe refused. It’s hard to imagine that his interview was anything more than a courtesy.
Former Justice Department official Alice Fisher: A prominent D.C. lawyer who may have helped devise the legal rationale for the Bush-era torture program during her previous stint at the DOJ.
Michael Garcia, associate judge on the New York State Court of Appeals: Former U.S. Attorney who brought down Eliot Spitzer. A Republican and ex-Bush administration official who would be the first Latino FBI director.
Former homeland security adviser to George W. Bush Fran Townsend: Townsend joins McCabe in the “probably too reasonable of a choice to be true” basket. The CBS national security analyst was a #NeverTrump conservative, who signed a letter declaring the mogul unfit for office during the campaign. She has also spoken out against Trump’s Muslim ban and raised concerns about the independence of the Russia investigation.
U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson: One of the conservative judges who ruled Obamacare unconstitutional.
Adam Lee, FBI special agent in charge of the Richmond, Virginia, office: A lawyer and longtime bureau member, with nearly a decade of experience investigating corruption and white-collar crime. Also has some expertise on national-security concerns. A reasonable-looking pick, at least on first glance.