Many analysts have argued that the next FBI director shouldn’t be a politician. But try telling that to Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), who has been pressing Senate Democratic leaders to consider former GOP congressman Mike Rogers (Mich.) for the post.
Ruppersberger told me Wednesday that in conversations with Democratic leadership, he had endorsed Rogers’s “integrity, competence and patriotism.” Rogers, a former FBI agent who served as House Intelligence Committee chairman until his retirement in 2015, has also been endorsed by the FBI Agents Association. The group said in a May 13 statement that Rogers “exemplifies the principles that should be possessed by the next FBI director.”
The renewed lobbying over the FBI post follows the disclosure that former senator Joe Lieberman, who appears to be President Trump’s first choice for the job, is likely to withdraw his name. That’s because he works at the same law firm as Marc Kasowitz, whom Trump has reportedly hired to represent him in dealing with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of possible collusion between Russian intelligence operatives and the Trump campaign.
Rogers is said to be one of a half-dozen names Trump is considering. His political background has been seen as a liability for the job. But Ruppersberger argues that he and Rogers demonstrated that bipartisanship can work when they were ranking Democrat and chairman, respectively, of the House intelligence panel.
Rogers infuriated conservatives when he backed a bipartisan committee report in 2014 that rebutted conspiracy theories about the Benghazi attacks and alleged misconduct by Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state. That conservative opposition was one reason Rogers was dumped as head of the Trump transition team on intelligence after the election.
Trump has other strong candidates, including several current and former FBI officials and federal judges. And the argument for having a nonpolitical director will carry weight, after the trauma that surrounded Trump’s firing of James B. Comey.
The counterargument is that the FBI, like the CIA, might benefit from having a director with the political skills to protect the agency. That was the case with former congressman Leon Panetta, whose selection as CIA director in 2009 was initially controversial, and with former congressman Mike Pompeo, who’s now running the agency and appears to be getting good marks from his colleagues.