There are lots of rumors about who will succeed James Comey as director of the FBI. Perhaps the most intriguing rumor involves Judge Merrick Garland. Sen. Mike Lee tweeted: “Instead of a special prosecutor, @realDonaldTrump should nominate Merrick Garland to replace James Comey.” Phillip Wegmann of the Washington Examiner makes the case for selecting Judge Garland here.
Judge Garland is a fine man. He’s qualified to direct the FBI. If he took the job, it would free up a seat on the D.C. Circuit for President Trump to fill.
However, Garland may be the most aggrieved man in America. But for Republican partisanship, he would be a Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
I supported the treatment of Garland by Senate Republicans, and have no doubt that Democrats would have done the same thing if the circumstances were reversed. Still, Judge Garland has good reason to be angry with Republicans. I don’t want an FBI director who has good reason to be angry with Republicans.
My friend Bill Otis suggests a different court of appeals judge — Julie Carnes of the Eleventh Circuit. Judge Carnes was nominated for the court of appeals by former president Obama and confirmed unanimously by the Senate (apparently this was some sort of “package deal”).
Previously, Judge Carnes had been a federal district court judge, having been nominated by former president G.H.W. Bush. Thus, she has strong “bipartisan” credentials, though I’m told that her rulings on the appeals court have been consistently conservative.
If selected and confirmed, Judge Carnes would be the first female FBI director.
Trump reportedly is considering Mike Rogers for the post. Rogers, a former FBI agent, served seven terms in Congress. He was chairman of the intelligence committee.
Rogers came under attack from some conservatives over his handling, as intel committee chairman, of Benghazi. They criticized him for working with committee Democrats and for discounting the claim by CIA contractors who fought in Benghazi that they had been instructed by a CIA man, initially and for a brief amount of time, to “stand down.”
The House Intelligence Committee was long a bastion of bipartisanship, although that tradition appears to have died since Rogers departed. Rogers’ willingness to work with committee Democrats gives him credibility for the FBI job, and I don’t think it should be held against him.
As for the CIA contractors, the problem, as I understand it, was that their sworn deposition testimony to committee lawyers didn’t match what they later said on television and in their book (and what was depicted in a movie based on their book).
I think Rogers rates serious consideration.
Other names being floated include John Pistole, a former FBI official who led the Transportation Security Administration under President Obama; Fran Townsend, who was George W. Bush’s counter terrorism adviser; and Bill Bratton, former New York City Police Chief.
In evaluating candidates, it is important to remember that the FBI director has many responsibilities other than overseeing the investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election. Foremost among them, in my view, is leading the charge against domestic terrorism. The Trump administration should evaluate potential candidates through that lens more than any other.
UPDATE: I believe Julie Carnes is (or at least was) a Democrat (as I stated in the original version of this post). I’m told she comes from a line of conservative Georgia Democrats.
Given this, as well as her unanimous approval by the Senate as court of appeals judge, the Dems would be hard-pressed to object to her. What could they say?