Obama Nominating Ex-Bush Official Comey as FBI Chief

President Barack Obama said he’s nominating James Comey, a former deputy attorney general in the Bush administration, as director of the FBI.

“I’m confident that Jim will be a leader who understands how to keep America safe as well as stay true to our founding ideals no matter what the future will bring,” Obama said of Comey in the White House Rose Garden.

Comey, 52, whose nomination is subject to Senate confirmation, would replace Robert Mueller as head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Obama called Mueller “one of the finest directors in the history of the FBI.”

Comey would take over the agency at a sensitive time, as officials manage inquiries into the Boston Marathon bombings, Internal Revenue Service screening of small-government groups and leaks about confidential government operations.

After he left the government in 2005, Comey was general counsel at defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. and then hedge fund Bridgewater Associates LP after he left the government in 2005. Most recently he was appointed to the board of London-based bank HSBC Holdings Plc as a nonexecutive director.

Comey played a role in a dramatic episode during President George W. Bush’s administration when he refused to reauthorize a warrantless eavesdropping program after being pressured by White House officials.

At the time, Attorney General John Ashcroft was hospitalized, and Bush’s White House advisers were attempting to persuade him to reauthorize the program. Comey, with Mueller, went to his hospital room to intercept the White House aides seeking Ashcroft’s approval. Ashcroft said he had concerns about the legality of the plan and deferred the decision to Comey, who refused the request.

In testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2007, Comey called the experience “the most difficult time in my professional life.”

The program was revised after Comey, Mueller and other top Justice Department officials threatened to resign if it was reauthorized without their sign-off.

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