Trump spokesman declines to back FBI Director James Comey – Washington Post
“There hasn’t been any official statement with regard to Director Comey,’’ Trump spokesman Jason Miller said during the transition team’s daily briefing. Asked if Trump would seek the resignation of Comey, who played a controversial role in the presidential campaign’s final days, Miller said only: “I would imagine that at some point, the two will meet.”
Comey drew biting criticism at various points from Republicans and Democrats over the FBI’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. Clinton has told donors she blamed her surprising loss on the FBI chief, who told Congress 11 days before the election that the bureau was reviewing further Clinton emails, then said two days before Election Day that the review had not changed his decision not to recommend charges against Clinton.
Trump, who at times assailed the FBI and called Comey corrupt during the campaign, told “60 Minutes” after his election victory that he had not decided whether to ask Comey to step down. “I haven’t made up my mind. I respect him a lot. I respect the FBI a lot,’’ said Trump, adding that he wanted to meet with Comey before deciding.
Comey is in the third year of a 10-year term that began in September 2013, and the FBI director typically does not change with a new president to preserve the job’s independence. But presidents can remove an FBI director, as Bill Clinton did in 1993, when he fired William S. Sessions halfway through Clinton’s first year in office over allegations of ethical issues.
Officials close to Comey have told The Washington Post that he has no plans to leave, despite the barrage of criticism he faced over his decisions on the Clinton probe. The FBI has declined to comment.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the 10-year term was meant by Congress to inhibit a president from removing a director for political reasons.
The comments came as new possible candidates emerged for homeland security secretary, a crucial post under Trump because the president-elect has vowed to crack down on illegal immigration and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, who retired this year as chief of U.S. Southern Command, is under consideration for the position, people familiar with the selection process said. Also under consideration is Frances Townsend, a top homeland security and counterterrorism official in the George W. Bush administration, they said.
Kelly, a widely respected military officer who served for more than 40 years, clashed with the Obama administration over its plans to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and to put women fully into combat roles. He met with Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Sunday.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach also met with Trump on Sunday and appeared to be carrying in a written plan for homeland security. According to one page of the plan photographed by the Associated Press, it focused in part on questioning “high-risk” immigrants over their alleged support for sharia law. Kobach is an immigration hard-liner who influenced Trump’s views on the subject and has helped lead the fight against President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
Trump and Pence on Monday resumed meetings with potential Cabinet choices and advisers at Trump Tower in Manhattan. Among those scheduled to meet with the two are former Texas governor Rick Perry (R), Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) and former House speaker Newt Gingrich.
No announcements are imminent, officials said Monday, adding that Trump is planning to spend Thanksgiving with his family at Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, Fla. Asked to address criticism that Trump’s Cabinet picks so far have lacked diversity, Miller vowed that Trump’s administration will look like America.
“Obviously we still have a long ways to go. . . . But I think when you get to the end, you’ll see a very broad and diverse administration,’’ said Miller. He also said lawyers are reviewing all of Trump’s pre-election meetings to spot any potential ethical issues.
“All meetings that are taking place, counsel is comfortable with. . . . We have counsel involved, and we’re comfortable with where everything is,’’ Miller said. Trump has drawn criticism for allowing his daughter, Ivanka, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to join a meeting Thursday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Ivanka Trump is expected to play a major role in running Trump’s businesses during his presidency.
The new developments came after a weekend in which job seekers, advisers and would-be allies paraded through Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., as Trump worked on filling his Cabinet. By Sunday, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis had emerged as a leading contender for defense secretary.
Members of the Trump team took to the Sunday morning talk shows. Pence, who heads Trump’s transition, and the incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, defended Trump’s Cabinet picks so far and elaborated on Trump’s more controversial campaign promises, including the reinstatement of waterboarding and a ban on Muslims entering the country.