Five things to know about Joe Lieberman

Five things to know about Joe Lieberman

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) has emerged as President Trump’s top pick to be the next FBI director.

If nominated and confirmed, Lieberman, who retired from the Senate in 2013, would succeed James Comey, whom Trump abruptly fired last week.

The selection comes one day after the Justice Department announced the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the FBI’s investigation into Russian election interference, which includes exploring any ties between Trump associates and Moscow.

Here are five things to know about Lieberman.

He’s a former state attorney general

Lieberman has some criminal justice experience to bolster his bid for FBI director. However, it isn’t at all recent. 

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Lieberman was considered a rising star in the Democratic Party in 1980, when he lost his first congressional bid. Two years later, he reemerged, winning a campaign for state attorney general. He served in that role between 1982 and 1988.

A graduate of Yale Law School, Lieberman made headlines by suing a company that illegally stored stripped paint from the White House in Connecticut. He also took on a cable company he said was leveraging its exclusive territory to muscle into the home security market and stood up for the mentally ill when a homeowners association feared ex-hospital patients would reduce property values. 

Lieberman won reelection once throughout his term as attorney general, only ending his time in office to begin his Senate term. 

He’s a Democrat turned Independent

Lieberman threw himself into the presidential arena twice during his time in politics. He made headlines in 2000 as Vice President Al GoreAl GoreTea Party favorite to lead conservative think tank Budowsky: Dems madder than hell Misreading lessons of an evolving electorate MORE’s running mate in a contest that made him the first national Jewish candidate.

Gore eventually lost to President George W. Bush in a contest settled by the Supreme Court.

Four years later, Lieberman unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic nomination for president.

After that, he found himself coming under pressure from liberals, in part over his support for the Iraq War.

After losing the Democratic primary in his 2006 reelection bid, Lieberman left the party and mounted a bid as an Independent, winning the three-way race by 10 percentage points.

There are early signs that Senate Democrats will seize on Lieberman’s political career as a black mark against him.

“It’s a mistake to nominate anyone who’s ever run for office," Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillWatchdog: Deceased individuals getting money from FCC's Lifeline program McCaskill attended reception at Russian ambassador's residence in 2015 Senators question need for HHS cyber office MORE (D-Mo.) told reporters on Thursday.

While refusing to comment on Lieberman specifically, Sen. Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalOvernight Regulation: Trump pick would swing labor board to GOP | House panel advances bill to slow ozone regs | Funding bill puts restrictions on financial regulators Senate Dems propose incentives to reduce state prison populations Only Congress can enable drone technology to reach its full potential MORE (D-Conn.) said Wednesday that the new FBI director “should have a background in criminal justice, preferably as a prosecutor and should be above politics — with no political background or partisan connections.”

He endorsed John McCainJohn McCainOvernight Defense: Senate panel passes defense policy bill | House panel presses on with markup | Trump officials say WH statement prevented Syria chemical attack | NATO pledges to raise spending Senate panel passes 0B defense policy bill GOP infighting erupts over healthcare bill MORE in 2008

Lieberman backed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a longtime friend, in the race for president in 2008.

In an address to the Republican National Convention that year, Lieberman criticized then-Illinois Sen. Barack ObamaBarack ObamaAppeals court overturns decision requiring EPA coal jobs report Obama ethics czar: Trump fundraiser at his DC hotel ‘illegal’ Trump greeted by protesters at campaign fundraiser MORE for his lack of experience. McCain, he said, was the only candidate who had proved he would break the “partisan gridlock” in Washington.

“Sen. Barack Obama is a gifted and eloquent young man who I think can do great things for our country in the years ahead, but, my friends, eloquence is no substitute for a record, not in these tough times for America,” Lieberman said.

“During the three-and-a-half years that Sen. Obama has been a member, he has not reached across party lines to accomplish anything significant, nor has he been willing to take on powerful interest groups in the Democratic Party to get something done.”

Lieberman also spoke positively about former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain’s running mate, whom he described as a “reformer” who has taken on special interest groups and “political power brokers.”

McCain and other Senate Republicans signaled support for Lieberman even before he was announced as Trump’s choice to lead the bureau, describing him as well-respected among both parties.

But Lieberman’s words have not aged well with his former party.

Liberals are not fond of him

The Iraq War is the big dividing point for Lieberman.

It led to Lieberman’s support for McCain and opposition to Obama, which made him a pariah in some circles.

“Lieberman is a terrible choice that will anger Democrats which is obviously why Trump wants him,” former Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer declared on Twitter Thursday, amid reports that Lieberman was the front-runner for FBI director. 

Lieberman has defended his support for the Iraq war.

“I think the world is a lot better off, not withstanding all the problems in Iraq,” Lieberman told MSNBC in a 2015 interview. “I think the world is better off and the region is better off and the people of Iraq are better off.” 

Lieberman also gained notoriety for his public criticism of former President Bill ClintonBill ClintonTrump taps Dem Senate aide for energy commission Former WH press secretaries: End live daily press briefings Jared Kushner hires Abbe Lowell for legal team MORE over the Monica Lewinsky affair, though he did not ultimately vote in favor of his impeachment.

In a 1998 speech on the Senate floor, Lieberman labeled Clinton’s behavior “immoral.”

“Such behavior is not just inappropriate. It is immoral,” Lieberman said. “And it is harmful, for it sends a message of what is acceptable behavior to the larger American family — particularly to our children — which is as influential as the negative messages communicated by the entertainment culture.”

In 1994, he supported an amendment cutting off funds to school districts disseminating educational materials that taught homosexuality as “a positive lifestyle alternative.”

He endorsed Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonHouse Dems ask DOJ watchdog to investigate Sessions's role in Comey firing Grassley: Why hasn't acting FBI chief recused himself on Flynn? GOP touts FBI probe into Sanders’s wife MORE in 2016

Lieberman eventually announced his support for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, after hinting that he might back Trump.

Lieberman, who knew the Clintons from his years at Yale, cited Clinton’s willingness to work with her Republican colleagues in the Senate.

“I’m going to vote for Hillary Clinton because [I've known] her forever, and her husband back to when they were at Yale Law School. I worked with her closely in the Senate for eight years,” Lieberman told Fox Business last August.

“She’s strong, she’s smart, she understands national security. What I was most impressed with in our years in the Senate together was she reached across party lines to try to build coalitions to get something done."

Earlier in the summer, Lieberman had avoided backing a candidate, fueling speculation he could support Trump.