It’s the president’s choice. James Comey is out as FBI director, and the future of the bureau’s leadership is subject to the whims of Donald Trump.
The U.S. president tweeted Wednesday he would install a new law-enforcement official who “will do a far better job, bringing back the spirit and prestige of the FBI.”
Among that new director’s tasks will be overseeing the probe into Trump’s own campaign’s alleged ties with the Russians.
The president had the lawful authority to fire Comey. Now he is able to nominate a successor who could be confirmed over clamorous resistance from Democrats.
Due to a procedural change in the Senate, the next FBI director will only need a simple majority (51 votes) rather than a supermajority (60 votes) to sail through a Senate confirmation. It should be a cakewalk in theory, considering the upper chamber is dominated by 52 Republicans.
“Trump could pick a guy like Chris Christie to take over,” constitutional expert and political analyst Paul Lisnek says of the former New Jersey governor and Trump loyalist.
“And then the battle would begin, with Democrats saying this is ridiculous, and Republicans saying what a great guy Chris Christie is. But Democrats would have no power. All they can do is scream and yell and say, ‘Call your senator.'”
Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, however, foresee a fraught appointment ahead, with bipartisan calls to at least consider an independent prosecutor to take over the investigation after Comey’s departure.
The attorney general’s office is interviewing potential interim FBI directors, with the expectation the new chief will be named within days, according to a CNN report citing Justice Department officials. A permanent replacement isn’t likely to be confirmed for a while yet under the weight of so much public scrutiny.
For now, Comey’s top deputy at the FBI, Andrew McCabe, will step into the role of director.
Senate Democrats will try to use delaying tactics in protest against any nominee that might carry a whiff of being too friendly to Trump. Possible candidates whose names were circulating Wednesday included former New York mayor and Trump loyalist Rudy Giuliani and South Carolina Republican congressman Trey Gowdy.
“Could this go on for many weeks? Absolutely,” Leskin says.
If Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein heeds the growing chorus of calls to appoint a special prosecutor for the Trump-Russia probe, Leskin says things may go more smoothly.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed that prospect on Wednesday, saying it would be a mistake to halt an investigation already in progress because Comey was fired.
‘I’ve spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable…