President Barack Obama nominated Republican James B. Comey, who served as Deputy Attorney General under George W. Bush, as a successor to outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller today.
Comey, 52, will have to be confirmed by the Senate, but early reaction from members of Congress indicate the process isn’t likely to be as contentious as that accompanying the approval of many other past Obama nominees.
Mueller, who was appointed by President George W. Bush to lead the FBI shortly before the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attacks, will retire from the position after heading the agency, at Obama’s request, for two years beyond the expiration of his original 10-year appointment.
Comey made headlines in 2006 when he refused to sign off on the Bush White House’s demand for unspecified domestic surveillance procedures as part of the National Security Agency’s burgeoning spy program. At the time, Comey was functioning as acting Attorney General in place of AG John Ashcroft, who had been hospitalized for surgery.
The bizarre drama that unfolded resulted in a White House attempt to wrest approval for the NSA expansion from the convalescing Ashcroft himself, with Chief of Staff Alberto Gonzalez standing at Ashcroft’s bedside pleading for approval. Comey rushed to Ashcroft’s room just before Gonzalez arrived and urged the ailing AG to stand his ground. With Comey and FBI Director Mueller adamant that they’d both resign before they certified a questionable expansion of NSA powers while Ashcroft lay in the hospital, the White House relented.
Comey also led the prosecution of Martha Stewart at her 2004 trial and conviction for conspiracy and lying to investigators in connection with alleged insider trading.