Comey’s gone, now how do we replace him at the FBI?
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President Donald Trump precipitously dismissed FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday because “it is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.”

Regardless of whether the president appropriately fired Comey, Trump must expeditiously nominate and the Senate should promptly confirm an exceptional replacement. The institution and smooth execution of expert, open, fair and swift nomination and confirmation processes are essential to “public trust and confidence” in the FBI and the president.

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The statute which creates the office of FBI director and the term of service provides guidance on filling that office. Congress grants the director extraordinary powers to investigate potential federal law violations and a ten-year term, which accord the director insulation from political pressures and independence from the president and lawmakers, who nominate and confirm the director.

 

The president can most effectively discharge his solemn nomination responsibility by seeking broad input and assiduously consulting Congress, especially the Senate which must provide advice and consent. 

The president should promptly seek recommendations on the nomination process and specific candidates from Congress’ members. For example, Trump might convene a meeting with Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsData confirm that marijuana decriminalization is long overdue The FIRST STEP Act sets up a dangerous future The Sessions DOJ is working to end the great asylum hustle MORE, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSunk judicial pick spills over into Supreme Court fight Hillicon Valley: Trump's Russia moves demoralize his team | Congress drops effort to block ZTE deal | Rosenstein warns of foreign influence threat | AT&T's latest 5G plans On The Money: Trump 'ready' for tariffs on all 0B in Chinese goods | Trump digs in on Fed criticism | Lawmakers drop plans to challenge Trump ZTE deal MORE (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerData confirm that marijuana decriminalization is long overdue Pollster: Kavanaugh will get Dem votes Democrats slam Trump for considering Putin’s ’absurd’ request to question Americans MORE (D-N.Y.), Intelligence Committee Chair Robert Burr (R-N.C.) and Vice Chair Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate panel advances Trump IRS nominee Bipartisan bill would bring needed funds to deteriorating National Park Service infrastructure Senate Dems press for info on any deals from Trump-Putin meeting MORE (D-Va.), Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySunk judicial pick spills over into Supreme Court fight Andrew Wheeler must reverse damage to American heartland Senators push to clear backlog in testing rape kits MORE (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSunk judicial pick spills over into Supreme Court fight Senate GOP breaks record on confirming Trump picks for key court Deal to fix family separations hits snag in the Senate MORE (D-Calif.), House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanInterior fast tracks study of drilling's Arctic impact: report Dems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia National Dems make play in Ohio special election MORE (R-Wis.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.).

The attendees should comprehensively, candidly and confidentially ventilate all issues relevant to the nomination and discuss candidates qualified to direct the FBI.

The president should quickly narrow the field of candidates and perhaps selectively broach these prospects with some attendees. The criteria for selection must be excellence, experience in law enforcement and independence. 

Examples of the type of people Trump should nominate include former directors Louis Freeh and Robert Mueller. Once the president secures comprehensive input on candidates, he must carefully review those ideas and astutely nominate the best individual who satisfies the criteria. 

When Trump announces the nominee, he should thoroughly explain the reasons for selection.

Upon receipt of the nomination, the Senate must assertively fulfill its advice and consent role. Complete, swift and fair assessment is critical, particularly because President TrumpDonald John TrumpWSJ: Trump ignored advice to confront Putin over indictments Trump hotel charging Sean Spicer ,000 as book party venue Bernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin MORE may have conflicts of interest, especially regarding the FBI investigation of Russia’s interference in the U.S. elections and its possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

Judiciary Chairman Grassley must rapidly, fully and equitably investigate the nominee by helping the FBI conduct a background check. The chairman then should expeditiously convene a hearing. Members must thoroughly, rigorously and fairly question the nominee. 

Senators ought to guarantee that the nominee possesses superior qualifications, including complete independence, to discharge the Director’s critical responsibilities, especially leading the Russia probe, unless a special prosecutor or select committee is appointed. Soon after the hearing, Grassley must schedule a full, robust and fair discussion of the nominee and a vote.

If the committee approves the nominee, Majority Leader McConnell must rapidly arrange a comprehensive and fair Senate debate, which rigorously ventilates all relevant issues. McConnell next should conduct a ballot.

President Trump and the Senate must aggressively cooperate to ensure that the individual appointed FBI Director has the finest qualifications to discharge the office’s crucial responsibilities and the maximum independence. 

The president and senators can best guarantee public confidence in the new director and the FBI by following efficacious selection procedures. 

Carl Tobias is the Williams Chair in Law at the University of Richmond. His work has appeared in U.S. News and World Reports and The Guardian.


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