President Trump’s drive to find a new FBI director has lost its “Joe-mentum.” Former senator Joseph I. Lieberman today withdrew his name from consideration for the post, citing a conflict of interest because his law firm colleague has signed on to help the White House with the Russia investigations.
Lieberman had been considered a front-runner and met with Trump on May 17 to discuss succeeding James B. Comey. But Senate Democrats expressed reservations about their former colleague, who served as a Democrat and then as an independent. After Trump hired Marc Kasowitz, a partner in the firm where Lieberman is senior counsel, to help him navigate the investigations into the Trump team’s Russia ties, Lieberman’s prospects for becoming the head of the FBI decreased.
In a letter to Trump today, he officially took himself out of the running.
“Just being thought of for this position was a great honor because of my enormous respect for the men and women of the FBI and the critical and courageous work they do in protecting the American people from criminals and terrorists, and upholding our finest values,” he wrote.
“However, I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration for this nomination. With your selection of Marc Kasowitz to represent you in the various investigations that have begun, I do believe it would be best to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest, given my role as a senior counsel in the law firm of which Marc is the senior partner.”
A former partner in Kasowitz’s law firm, David Friedman, is now Trump’s ambassador to Israel.
Justice Department officials have continued to meet with potential candidates during Trump’s overseas trip this week. According to reports, candidates include New York City Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly, former House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers; former federal appellate court judge J. Michael Luttig; Paul Abbate, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch; and Larry Thompson, former deputy attorney general under President George W. Bush.
Several other candidates have also taken themselves out of consideration, including former assistant attorney general Alice Fisher, Associate Judge Michael Garcia of the New York Court of Appeals, career FBI official Richard McFeely, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).