After the stunning ouster of FBI Director James Comey, President Donald Trump needs to pick a new person to lead the bureau.
It’s a decision rife with consequences both political (firing Comey amid the FBI’s investigation into Trumpland’s ties to Russia threatens to derail the GOP’s agenda) and practical (the new nominee will lead the nation’s top law enforcement agency for the next decade).
Trump is weighing eight names to head the FBI, as Bloomberg first reported. They range from Republican politicians to two judges to the man filling Comey’s shoes for the time being. They’d be leading the nation’s most prestigious police force — and be charged with picking up the Trump-Russia probe that led to their predecessor’s removal.
A source familiar with the search confirmed the Bloomberg shortlist.
Cornyn — the Senate majority whip, the second-ranking position among Senate Republicans — served on the Texas Supreme Court and as Texas attorney general before he was elected to the United States Senate in 2002.
Cornyn would likely enjoy the support of all 52 members of the Senate Republican conference; the FBI director must be confirmed with 50 votes, making Cornyn a potentially appealing pick. He would also, however, bring the baggage of an explicitly partisan background, at a time when Democrats and even some Republicans say Trump should restore faith in the FBI by making a nonpartisan nomination, as Obama did when he nominated Comey, a Republican.
On the Russia investigations, Cornyn has previously dismissed Trump’s criticism of the probe as a “witch hunt.”
“It is a legitimate area of inquiry,” he said, according to a roundup from Axios. “There is no question that Putin is trying to undermine our democracy and undermine public confidence in our institutions."
McCabe, currently the acting FBI director, has worked in the bureau for more than 20 years, in top positions that included leading the national security office, and he stepped in to lead the agency after Comey’s removal.
McCabe would represent the smoothest possible transition from Comey’s tenure, and his nomination would likely assuage some critics worried that Trump will appoint a FBI director inclined to downplay the ongoing investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The acting director has said that the current FBI investigation into Trumpland and Russia is “highly significant,” per Axios, and he has promised not to allow politics to interfere with the probe.
“Simply put, sir, you cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing, protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution," McCabe told a Senate panel last week, per NBC News.
But some Senate Republicans, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, raised concerns about McCabe as acting director — let alone in a permanent position.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s political action committee donated nearly $500,000 to McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe, when she was running as a Democrat for Virginia’s state Senate. McCabe did not participate in his wife’s campaign, but when the FBI was investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, McAuliffe’s support was reported as a possible conflict of interest because the governor is a close ally of the Clintons.
"He's got political problems because of McAuliffe helping his wife, and I don't think he's the person that should be taking over," Grassley told CNN's Manu Raju.
Fisher — a partner at Latham & Watkins and former assistant attorney general — led the Justice Department’s criminal division under President George W. Bush. She focused on corporate fraud, particularly contracting work related to the war on terror, according to the National Law Journal. However, she was also criticized by Democrats at the time for her support of terrorist detentions at Guantanamo Bay.
Fisher is said to be well liked by the Washington establishment, and she would be a familiar face. She would also be the first woman to lead the FBI.
She has not commented publicly on the Russia probe.
Garcia — an associate judge on the New York Court of Appeals and former US attorney — has a history of anti-corruption crusades, including the investigation of a prostitution ring that led to the resignation of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, according to NBC News. He was also hired by FIFA to investigate alleged corruption in the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Garcia would be the first Latino to lead the bureau. He has accrued bipartisan support over his career: George W. Bush appointed him to a homeland security position in his administration, while New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, appointed Garcia to the state appeals court.
He has not commented on the Russia probe, though Axios noted this comment he made during the FIFA investigation, which included investigating whether Russia won the right to host the 2018 World Cup through bribery: "My authority is to investigate any official — top down — for misconduct. No one is above the ethics code."
Townsend — executive vice president at MacAndrews & Forbes and a former homeland security adviser to George W. Bush — advised Bush on counterterrorism, and she is said to have a long interest in cybersecurity, a top issue right now. She earned plaudits from John Cohen, who worked under Bush and Barack Obama, when her name was floated as Trump’s possible pick to be his homeland security secretary, Politico reported. “I think she would be a calming influence,” Cohen said at the time.
Townsend has actually been sharply critical of Trump at times. She signed a letter during the campaign declaring him unfit for office, and she also criticized the initial immigration ban targeting Muslims pursued by the Trump administration, according to Politico.
Hudson — a US District Court judge — was appointed to the federal bench by George W. Bush, after serving as a prosecutor and the head of the US Marshals Service under President George H.W. Bush.
He was leading the marshals service during the Rudy Ridge incident, a standoff between federal marshals and a fugitive holing up with his family, which resulted in the death of a marshal and the fugitive’s 14-year-old son. Hudson controversially decided not to pursue an internal investigation of the incident.
Over his career, according to McClatchy, Hudson has acquired the nickname “Hang ’Em High Harry” for being tough on crime. That record, plus his beginnings as a Republican politician, could prove problematic in the confirmation process.
Hudson has not commented publicly on the Russia investigation.
Lee — the FBI special agent in charge of the Richmond, Virginia, office — has worked on corruption and civil rights investigations during his time with the FBI. He has led the Richmond office since 2014, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
He has had a diverse tenure inside the bureau, working on white-collar crime, national security issues, and cybersecurity as well as serving on a SWAT team for seven years. Lee would be another continuity, career-driven nominee, one who would likely be more immune to partisan allegations.
Though Lee is a seasoned agent who has worked for the bureau for two decades, he does not have the same public-facing experience as the other candidates.
He has not commented publicly on the Russia investigation.
Rogers — a former FBI special agent who was also a Republican Congress member from Michigan — chaired the House Intelligence Committee before leaving office in 2015. He was previously floated as a possible FBI director in 2013 and he advised the Trump campaign on national security issues.
Rogers worked for five years in the FBI’s Chicago office, focused on corruption and organized crime. An association of current FBI agents has backed Rogers’s bid to be the new director, according to McClatchy. Rogers’s tenure leading the intelligence committee included some instances, such as a sober report on the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that earned bipartisan praise.
But on a more fundamental level, Rogers would likely face pushback from Democrats over his background as a Republican politician. He has also dismissed the idea that Russia intervened specifically to help Trump win the 2016 election, instead pointing to a more general goal to “sow discontent and mistrust in our elections.”
"They saw the same polls that we did," he said earlier this month, according to Reuters. "Some notion that the Russians knew that Trump had an opportunity to win this thing more than U.S. public pollsters thought, I find ridiculous."