by Nolan D. McCaskill · May 16, 2017
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has encouraged President Donald Trump to nominate Merrick Garland to lead the FBI, the Kentucky Republican said Tuesday.
“I have spoken with the president about it. I recommended Merrick Garland,” McConnell told Bloomberg Politics’ Kevin Cirilli.
“Yeah, it may surprise people, but he has a deep background in criminal law,” he continued. “He was the prosecutor in the Oklahoma City bombing case. And I think it would make it clear that President Trump will continue the tradition at the FBI of having an apolitical professional.”
Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey last week amid a looming investigation into potential collusion between Trump associates and Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. The administration suggested the ousting came at the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, but Trump later told NBC News that he would have fired Comey regardless of the recommendation.
A source familiar with Garland’s thinking said he’s not interested in the FBI director post. “He loves his job and isn’t interested in leaving the judiciary,” said the source, who asked not to be named.
Aides to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) had privately prodded associates of Garland — who had stayed mum as speculation swirled about Trump naming him to the FBI — to make clear publicly that he wasn’t interested in the position, according to one source familiar with the interaction.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on Thursday first floated the idea of Garland leading the FBI. Garland, chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, was nominated by former President Barack Obama to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court last year but was blocked by Senate Republicans, who maintained that the next president should fill the vacancy, as Trump eventually did.
“Instead of a special prosecutor, @realDonaldTrump should nominate Merrick Garland to replace James Comey,” Lee tweeted Thursday.
While Republicans have framed Garland as a figure who could get bipartisan support in the Senate, nominating Garland would give the president an opening to appoint someone to the D.C. Circuit, the most powerful court aside from the Supreme Court. There are currently seven Democratic and four Republican appointees on the court.
McConnell didn’t address the court vacancy that would open up but insisted “it would be good to have Democratic support” on a new FBI director nominee.
“And I think if he picks someone with a deep background in law enforcement who has no history of political involvement, a genuine expert — and the reason I mention Garland, he’s an example of that — it will serve him well, serve the country well and lead to, I think, a more bipartisan approach,” he said.
Josh Gerstein and Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.