Joe Lieberman, a career politician from Connecticut and long-time Democrat, is US president Donald Trump’s top pick to lead the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he indicated on Thursday.
Trump told reporters during a press event in the Oval Office that he was “very close” to picking a new FBI director to replace James Comey, who he abruptly fired earlier this month. When asked if Lieberman was among the finalists, he said “Yes” emphatically, and anonymous sources have told several news outlets Lieberman is his top choice.
Lieberman spent most of his political career as a Democrat, but endorsed Republican presidential candidate John McCain in 2008. He retired from the Senate in 2013 at the end of his second term.
Trump helped Lieberman make a political “comeback” of sorts in 2015, by appearing at a bi-partisan convention Lieberman was running in New Hampshire alongside Bernie Sanders and Chris Christie. Trump was “the biggest attention-getter by far,” the Hartford Courant wrote about the event.
Since Trump became president, Lieberman has supported some of his more controversial moves, praising his choice of former Fox News commentator K.T. McFarland as deputy National Security Advisor (she was ousted from the job by incoming NSA head H.R. McMaster), and introducing Republican fund-raiser Betsy DeVos as a “change agent” at her Senate hearing (she was later confirmed in a historically close vote).
The law firm he has worked for since 2013, Kasowitz, Benson, Torres, has represented Trump since at least Nov. of 2001, often on cases that had to do with his reputation. The firm represented Trump in his lawsuit against journalist Tim O’Brien, for example, who claimed in his book “Trump Nation” that the real estate developer’s net worth was at most $250 million, not the billions he claimed. Trump sued for $5 billion, but lost.
Lieberman is not named as an attorney on any of the Trump-related cases that Kasowitz has taken on, and as senior counsel at the firm has mostly seemed to serve a marketing role, hosting a “conversation and cocktails” evening, and speaking at public events.
Whether Lieberman is qualified to lead the 35,000 agents that the FBI employs is a matter of debate. California senator Diane Feinstein said she’d prefer to see someone with a law enforcement background in the position, and others questioned his experience. Lieberman served as Connecticut state attorney general for six years, ending in 1989, but otherwise has held political office. His appointment will need to be confirmed by a majority vote in the Senate.
“Lieberman simply doesn’t have the managerial or investigative background to be in the small class of people qualified to hold the position,” Benjamin Wittes, the co-founder of the Lawfare, wrote on Twitter.
McCain, the Arizona Senator disagrees, however.