What does Congress think of James Comey?

May 30, 2013

Congress hasn't said much yet about the news that President Obama plans to nominate James Comey as the next director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation -- not because they don't like him, but because they're not in town.


Then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey gestures during a news conference in Washington, on Jan. 14, 2004. (AP)

The House and Senate are on recess this week, meaning lawmakers are scattered across the country and around the world. Plus, the White House hasn't formally announced the Comey pick, so lawmakers are less apt to speak out until they get official word.

Spokespeople for several lawmakers said their bosses were unavailable Thursday because of personal or official travel. But Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who is a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday night that he's open to supporting Comey.

"I haven't heard from the White House about Mr. Comey's nomination," Grassley said in a statement. "I appreciate, though, that Mr. Comey has a lot of experience on national security issues, which is one of the most important focuses for the FBI in the aftermath of 9/11, and has shown integrity in dealing with these matters. But if he's nominated, he would have to answer questions about his recent work in the hedge fund industry. "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 in this lucrative industry. I look forward to hearing more from him during the confirmation process should he be nominated."

(RELATED: Recalling James Comey's 20 minutes of fame)

Comey currently teaches at Columbia Law School, but after serving as deputy attorney general during the early years of George W. Bush's administration, he served as general counsel at Lockheed Martin and later the hedge fund firm Bridgewater Associates, LP, which is based in Connecticut.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said in an interview Thursday that he doubts there will be any significant concerns with Comey's private sector experience.

"That part of his life is less transparent, for obvious reasons," Blumenthal said, adding later that, "Unless there are facts or issues that will come to the fore, I think he will be enormously attractive for his professionalism and his bipartisanship."

Blumenthal, a former state attorney general, recalled seeing Comey several times at annual meetings between state attorneys general and Justice Department officials. He said he most admired Comey’s work on several intense, complicated federal cases and for standing up to Bush and senior aides over the push to authorize warrant-less wiretapping.

“The Department of Justice prides itself on team players, but he in effect spoke up and stood up when personal character really mattered,” Blumenthal said. “I’ve admired him for that quality, but also for his consistent professionalism over many years.”

“He is truly a prosecutor’s prosecutor,” Blumenthal added. “So I think he’ll have enormous respect within the bureau and rightly so. He will respect the professionals in the bureau for the great work they do, but he will also set high standards for the entire agency.”

Follow Ed O'Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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