GOP senators pitch Merrick Garland for FBI director

GOP senators pitch Merrick Garland for FBI director
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Merrick Garland, former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaDem pollster: Trump stronger politically than critics expected Obama updates summer reading list 2018 is the year India, China and Israel go to the moon MORE’s Supreme Court nominee, is gaining an unlikely ally: Senate Republicans.

A pair of Utah lawmakers, Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGOP moderates hint at smooth confirmation ahead for Kavanaugh GOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE GOP senator moves to restart Pentagon report on NATO allies' spending MORE and Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchGOP moderates hint at smooth confirmation ahead for Kavanaugh GOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE Yale Law School students, alumni denounce Trump Supreme Court pick MORE, are urging the White House to include Garland’s name in the search for the next FBI director after President Trump fired James Comey on Tuesday night.

“I suggested that [the White House] ought to consider him,” Hatch told reporters on Thursday. “I didn’t say they should just pick him. I know they’ve got some really excellent people, but I said put Merrick in the list too.”

Lee separately floated on Twitter that instead of naming a special prosecutor for the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election Trump should “nominate Merrick Garland to replace James Comey.”

The GOP pitch to make Garland the nation’s top law enforcement officer is a reversal from last year, when Republicans refused to give him a hearing or a vote to join the Supreme Court. The move infuriated Democrats and allowed Trump to quickly appoint a justice after taking office.

But Hatch argued on Thursday that the Republican blockade was never about Garland, but rather was about keeping the Supreme Court out of election-year politics.

“Merrick Garland is a very fine fellow. There’s never been an issue with Merrick Garland,” he told reporters. “Merrick is a very fine man. I like Merrick.”

But Lee’s public pitch sparked skepticism from some Democrats.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) tweeted an “It’s a trap!” Star Wars GIF in response, adding: “On Merrick Garland for FBI head, this seems...unserious.”

But Conn Carroll, a spokesman for Lee, said the GOP senator's suggestion is serious and added that he pitched Garland after an unrelated meeting at the White House on tax reform.

"He's eminently qualified and has the reputation needed to restore public confidence in FBI," Carroll told The Hill, when asked why Lee would suggest Garland.

Carroll added on Twitter that Garland "has extensive prosecutorial experience including overseeing the OKC bombing investigation."

Garland, then working for the Department of Justice, helped oversee the investigation and prosecution of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Whoever succeeds Comey — whom Trump fired Tuesday — would be responsible for overseeing the FBI's investigation into Russia's meddling in last year's presidential election and any possible connections between members of Trump's campaign and Moscow.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Health Care: Watchdog finds Tom Price improperly used funds on flights | Ex-Novartis CEO sent drug pricing proposal to Cohen | HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts: report Senate takes symbolic shot at Trump tariffs MORE (R-S.C.), who like Hatch and Lee is a member of the Judiciary Committee, also backed the idea of Garland being on the list of candidates for FBI director.

“Put me on that list of floaters. I like that. I think he's a good guy,” he said asked about Hatch’s and Lee’s idea.

Graham said he hadn’t spoken to the White House to formally pitch Garland but is “thumbs up” about the former Obama nominee potentially succeeding Comey.

Nominating Garland would likely be an easy way to win over Democrats, who overwhelmingly supported his Supreme Court nomination, amid the lingering political fallout over Comey's firing.  

However, Trump’s FBI nominee could technically clear the Senate without any Democratic support. Under a rule change in 2013, executive branch nominees only need a simple majority to be approved and Republicans have 52 seats.

But not every GOP senator was sold on the concept of Garland becoming the next FBI director.

“I’ve heard the rumor but, as far as I know it’s just a rumor,” Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSunday shows preview: Trump readies for meeting with Putin GOP moderates hint at smooth confirmation ahead for Kavanaugh GOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE MORE (R-Texas), the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, said.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyKavanaugh paper chase heats up Kavanaugh gets questionnaires for confirmation hearing Franken offers Dems a line of questioning for Kavanaugh's 'weirdly specific bit of bulls---' MORE (R-Iowa) declined to comment, noting, “I’m going to wait until I see a bunch of names.”

If Trump nominated Garland, his move would open up a seat on the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, allowing the president to fill that vacancy.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntOvernight Defense: Fallout from tense NATO summit | Senators push to block ZTE deal in defense bill | Blackwater founder makes new pitch for mercenaries to run Afghan war Hillicon Valley: DOJ appeals AT&T-Time Warner ruling | FBI agent testifies in heated hearing | Uproar after FCC changes rules on consumer complaints | Broadcom makes bid for another US company | Facebook under fire over conspiracy sites Hillicon Valley: Justice Department appeals AT&T-Time Warner ruling | New report on election security | FBI agent testifies in marathon hearing MORE (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, pointed to that potential vacancy as a potential boost to the idea.

“It would also create a vacancy in the important D.C. Circuit, so maybe I like it better the more I think about it,” he told the Associated Press.

Asked about his colleagues support for Garland, Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSenate Dems tell Trump: Don't meet with Putin one-on-one McConnell: Senate to confirm Kavanaugh by Oct. 1 Overnight Defense: Fears rise over Trump-Putin summit | McCain presses Trump to hold Putin 'accountable' for hacking | Pentagon does damage control after NATO meet MORE (R-Ariz.) — a close Senate ally of Graham — said, “I don’t agree. “

Instead, McCain said he would like to see former Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteFormer Arizona senator to shepherd Supreme Court nominee through confirmation process Shut the back door to America's opioid epidemic Heitkamp ad highlights record as Senate race heats up MORE (R-N.H.) become FBI director but added that he hadn’t floated the idea to the White House.

Ayotte, who was New Hampshire’s attorney general before joining the Senate, lost her reelection bid last year to Democrat Maggie Hassan.

After leaving office, Ayotte helped guide Justice Neil Gorsuch’s nomination through the Senate earlier this year.

Though her name has been floated as a potential successor for Comey, a source close to the former lawmaker told CNN that she hasn’t heard from the White House.

Trump told The New York Times late last year that he was passing on giving Ayotte a job in his administration because she didn’t support him during the election.  

“She’d love to have a job in the administration, I said, ‘No, thank you,’” Trump said at the time. “She refused to vote for me.”