President Obama plans to nominate James Comey as the next director of the FBI, sources said. (Tim Sloan / AFP file)
WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to nominate James Comey, a former senior Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, to replace Robert Mueller as the next director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to a government official knowledgeable of the nomination.
The official, who was not authorized to comment on the pending announcement, said Obama decided on Comey over a list of candidates that included Lisa Monaco, who has served as the White House’s top counterterrorism adviser since January.
The White House declined to comment on the pending appointment.
Comey, who previously served as deputy attorney general and supervised operations for the Justice Department, was a key player in one of the most dramatic moments during the Bush administration.
In 2004, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and White House chief of staff Andrew Card tried to persuade Attorney General John Ashcroft — who was ill with acute pancreatitis — to reauthorize a warrantless eavesdropping program while in his hospital bed at George Washington Hospital in Washington.
Comey learned of Gonzales and Card’s plan and rushed to Ashcroft’s hospital room, along with Mueller. Both threatened to resign if the White House renewed the program. As a result, it was not reauthorized.
Mueller, who took over at the FBI a week before the Sept. 11 attacks, agreed in 2011, at Obama’s request, to extend his term by up to two years. He is the longest serving FBI director since J. Edgar Hoover. Mueller’s tenure marked the transformation of the bureau from a traditional law enforcement agency to an intelligence-driven organization.
The decision on the new director has been a hot topic in recent months that included consideration of Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who was endorsed by the FBI Agents Association. Rogers is a former FBI agent.
“While FBIAA endorsed Mike Rogers and believed that he would have been an excellent nominee, Mr. Comey has an outstanding reputation among FBI agents, and we look forward to working with him on the wide array of challenges facing our country,” said Konrad Motyka, president of the association, which represents more than 12,000 agents.
The selection of Comey became more certain in the past month as the administration faced questions about the future of the agency and questions about the bureau’s handling of early concerns about one of the suspects in the the Boston Marathon bombings in April.
Comey is a senior research scholar and fellow on national security at Columbia University’s law school in New York City.
He recently stepped down as general counsel at Bridgewater Associates, a Westport, Conn., hedge fund. From 2005 to 2010, he served as general counsel at Lockheed Martin Corp.
Comey, who has broad experience in managerial roles at the Justice Department, served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, perhaps the most important Justice position outside of Washington. He also served as the managing assistant U.S. attorney in charge of the Richmond, Va., division.