Multiple news agencies have been able to confirm that President Obama will chose James B. Comey, a Republican who served in the Bush Justice Department, to replace Robert Mueller III as FBI director in the fall. Comey, who had an extremely successful Justice Department career, has support from both parties and so will likely ease through Senate confirmation hearings. Most notably, Comey is renowned for putting the law over politics in having stood up to pressure from the Bush White House to reauthorize an eavesdropping program without a warrant.
During 2004 episode, Comey had been named acting attorney general when Attorney General John Ashcroft was hospitalized. Bush White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andrew Card Jr. sought to gain authorization for their eavesdropping program from a disoriented Ashcroft. Comey rushed to Ashcroft's hospital room, where he promptly rejected the White House request for authorization.
Testifying before Congress Comey said, "I was angry. I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man, who did not have the powers of the attorney general because they had been transferred to me."
Comey, a University of Chicago Law School graduate, quickly rose through the ranks at the Justice Department, becoming assistant attorney general from 2003 to 2005. Critical in Comey's rise was his work on a 1996 terrorist bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 American troops. After taking over the investigation in 2001, Comey successfully prosecuted 14 men, earning him the high-profile post of U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Since leaving the Justice Department in 2005, Comey has served as general counsel for Lockheed Martin and the Connecticut hedge fund Bridgewater Associates before going to teach at Columbia Law School.
Comey will replace Robert Mueller III, who in his 12 years as director of the FBI transformed the Bureau from a white-collar crime and drugs agency to a leading component of the intelligence and counterterrorism apparatus. Although the FBI director serves a 10-year term, meant to insulate him from politics, Mueller served an unprecedented 12 years because in 2011 the Obama administration was unable to find a replacement.
Although he is a Republican, his actions as acting attorney general in 2004 gained Comey a lot of praise from Democrats. The hope is that he will face an easy nomination process, unlike the 79 vacancies on the U.S. Circuit Courts and Courts of Appeal where confirmations are being deliberately held up for political reasons. Comey will, however, face some tough questions about his time working at Bridgewater Associates. Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley of the Senate Judiciary Committee noted that Comey possesses a lot of important national security experience. "But, if he's nominated, he would have to answer questions about his recent work in the hedge fund industry," Grassley said. "The administration's efforts to criminally prosecute Wall Street for its part in the economic downturn have been abysmal, and his agency would have to help build the case against some of his colleagues."
His official nomination is expected to come before the end of the week.