McConnell Calls for ‘Apolitical’ FBI Director, Less Trump DramaBy
Defers to Senate Intelligence panel on whether to expand probe
Tells Trump to pick nominee like Merrick Garland for FBI
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that President Donald Trump should choose an "apolitical" FBI director, while adding he’d like to see "less drama" from the White House.
In an interview with Bloomberg News on Tuesday, the Kentucky Republican said he recommended that Trump choose former Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland to replace fired FBI Director James Comey. Last year, McConnell refused to allow a Senate confirmation hearing for Garland, who was nominated by President Barack Obama.
"I think the most important thing is for the president to pick somebody who’s apolitical, who clearly has a deep law enforcement background," McConnell said. Someone like Garland, a judge and former federal prosecutor, would "create a kind of wow factor that the president fully understands the role of the FBI director."
An apolitical nominee would rule out contenders like McConnell’s No. 2, Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn of Texas and former Republican Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, who were among a group of eight people interviewed over the weekend for the job by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Cornyn said in a statement Tuesday that he told the Trump administration “the best way I can serve is continuing to fight for a conservative agenda in the U.S. Senate.”
"Historically it’s been a solid law enforcement professional without a background in elective office," McConnell said. "That’s the kind of person who ought to be in the job and I think it would also make an important statement about the president himself."
Several other Republican senators have also pushed for Trump to name someone who could get broad bipartisan support. Bob Corker of Tennessee told reporters Monday it would be "a huge mistake" to name someone who couldn’t get Democratic votes.
"They’ve got to go beyond, beyond expectations and appoint someone who coming in people would know absolutely with every cell of their body this person was going to be someone who ran the FBI in a nonpartisan way," Corker said.
Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota, however, said Monday that Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, shouldn’t get a veto.
"Knowing Senator Schumer, he might just very well execute that veto and say, ‘Look, until we have the following demands met we’re not going to vote for anyone regardless of their qualifications,’" Rounds said.
McConnell, in saying he’d like to see less drama from the White House, said, "I think it would be helpful if the president spent more time on things we’re trying to accomplish and less time on other things."
McConnell declined to comment on reports late Monday that Trump disclosed highly classified information to the Russians in an Oval Office meeting last week. He deferred to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
"I’ve heard the allegation. I’ve heard the response. I don’t think I have anything to add to what I’ve read in terms of the impact of this in the future," the majority leader said.
"Congress is engaged in investigations now. We have the Senate Intelligence Committee looking at the allegation that the Russians were somehow in collusion with the Trump campaign. And there will be daily controversies all the time. I don’t know which ones will lead to further investigation," he said.
"The Senate Intelligence Committee will decide what they want to do," McConnell said.
He also declined to comment on Trump’s statement to NBC last week that he was thinking of the Russia investigation when he fired Comey, or his tweet suggesting he might have tapes of his conversations with Comey.
— With assistance by Laura Litvan, and Terrence Dopp