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 GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreCybersecurity of our nuclear systems needs to be a top priority Dem introduces bills to eliminate Electoral College, stop presidents from pardoning themselves Al Gore’s right about carbon capture and sequestration 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 Conner McCaskillThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump AG pick Barr grilled at hearing | Judge rules against census citizenship question | McConnell blocks second House bill to reopen government Ex-Sen. McCaskill joins NBC, MSNBC Some Senate Dems see Ocasio-Cortez as weak spokeswoman for party MORE (D-Mo.) told reporters on Thursday.

While refusing to comment on Lieberman specifically, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (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 Sidney McCainListen, learn and lead: Congressional newcomers should leave the extremist tactics at home Overnight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal Bipartisan senators reintroduce bill to prevent Trump from withdrawing from NATO 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 Hussein ObamaTrump offers to limit his border wall to strategic locations Americans need an economy that supports more than the 1 percent Pompeo’s retreat into chaos 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 ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president Agency function is tied to how people feel about their job — that's bad news for USDA research 5 myths about William Barr 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 Diane Rodham ClintonIdentity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination O'Rourke’s strategy: Show Americans the real Beto Conservatives pound BuzzFeed, media over Cohen report 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.