Aboard a short flight on Air Force One Saturday, President Donald Trump told reporters he could find a new leader to fill the vacancy left by sacked FBI Director James Comey by this Friday, when he leaves on his first foreign trip since taking office.
After comments that the administration intends to move “very quickly” on the process, a reporter in the White House press pool asked the president if that could mean finding a permanent replacement to spearhead the agency by the end of the week. His response: “Even that is possible.”
Four candidates are meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Saturday, including Andrew McCabe, the acting FBI director. McCabe testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this week. In his testimony he defended his former boss, contradicting assertions by administration officials and Trump that Comey had lost the confidence of the FBI’s rank-and-file.
When asked by Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., if it is “accurate that the rank-and-file no longer supported Director Comey?” McCabe answered, “I can tell you that I hold Director Comey in the absolute highest regard…I can tell you also that Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does until this day.”
The committee is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and any potential connections between Russia, the Trump campaign and some of the campaign’s top aides.
In addition to McCabe, Alice Fisher, a partner at the law firm Latham and Watkins, is also up for the job at the helm of the federal investigatory agency. Fisher previously served as assistant attorney general during the George W. Bush administration where she was in charge of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
A profile of Fisher on the firm’s website says her expertise lies in “international criminal matters relating to alleged bribery under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and other anti-corruption laws, economic and export sanctions, and other cross border investigations.”
If she is ultimately confirmed by the Senate, Fisher would be the first woman to lead the FBI.
Also meeting with Sessions and Rosenstein Saturday is Judge Michael Garcia, an associate judge on the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court. He was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York from 2005-2008. Before that, he was the assistant secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, appointed by President George W. Bush.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the current Senate majority whip and former attorney general of Texas, is another contender to replace Comey who is being interviewed Saturday. Cornyn was elected to the Senate in 2002 and also sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
These four interviews are not exhaustive and are just the start of the process. Trump also told reporters Saturday that all of the candidates under consideration are “outstanding,” “very well-known,” and at the “highest level.”
The search continues for an interim director of the FBI who will lead the agency until Comey’s permanent replacement is confirmed by the Senate. That search is proceeding on a separate track with a different pool of candidates.
NPR’s Tamara Keith contributed to this report.