Friday, June 21, 2013
President Obama today nominated Westporter James B. Comey as the next FBI director. His wife Patrice and five children were front row guests in the White House Rose Garden.
If confirmed by the Senate, the Greens Farms resident will replace outgoing director Robert Mueller III, serving for 10 years.
Obama praised Comey as a model of “fierce independence and deep integrity.”
“Jim is exceptionally qualified to handle the full range of challenges faced by today’s FBI,” the president said. “I am confident that Jim will be a leader who understands how to keep America safe and to stay true to our founding ideals no matter what the future may bring.”
“I want to commend the president for the choice of Jim Comey as the next director of the FBI,” said Mueller.
“I have had the opportunity to work with Jim for a number of years at the Department of Justice, and I have found him to be a man of honesty, dedication, and integrity. His experience, his judgment, and his strong sense of duty will benefit not only the Bureau, but the country as a whole.”
“Just as important as Jim’s extraordinary experience is his character,” Obama said.
“Jim understands that in times of crisis, we aren’t judged solely by how many plots we disrupt or how many criminals we bring to justice—we are also judged by our commitment to the Constitution that we’ve sworn to defend and to the values and civil liberties that we’ve pledged to protect.”
If his nomination is confirmed, Comey will be the 11th director in the FBI’s 105-year history—the seventh since the J. Edgar Hoover era.
In 1976, in reaction to the extraordinary 48-year term of Hoover, Congress passed a law limiting the FBI Director to a single term of no longer than 10 years.
Comey is known for successfully opposing a warrantless wiretapping program backed by other aides to President George W. Bush.
Mueller took up his post shortly before the 9/11 attacks and is retiring as director on Sept. 4.
In remarks today, Obama said Comey had “law enforcement in his blood.”
“As a young prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, he helped bring down the Gambino crime family; as a federal prosecutor in Virginia he led an aggressive effort to combat gun violence that reduced homicide rates and saved lives,” Obama said.
He also joked that Comey—who is 6-foot-8—was “a man who stands up very tall for justice and the rule of law.” Obama added: “I was saying while we were taking pictures with his gorgeous family here that they are all what Michelle calls ‘normal height.’”
Obama continued: “I want to thank Jim, his wife Patrice, and their five children who are here today—Maurene, Katherine, Brien, Claire and Abby—for supporting Jim as he takes on this important role. I know he couldn’t do this without you. And he is extraordinarily proud of all of you, and I can see why.
“This is a 10-year assignment. I make this nomination confident that long after I’ve left office, our nation’s security will be in good hands with public servants like Jim Comey. And so I urge, as usual, for the Senate to act promptly with hearings and to confirm our next FBI director right away.”
Comey paid tribute to his wife, whom he first met in 1978 when both were freshmen at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.
“Nearly everything I am and have done in my adult life is due to the great good fortune of marrying up,” he said to laughter.
“Thanks to the love and support, and occasional constructive criticism of my beloved troops, of my amazing wife, Patrice, and Abby, Claire, Brien, Kate and Maurene, I am a much better person that I would have been without you. I love you guys. I have a debt. I cannot repay you, but thank you for that.
“I must be out of my mind to be following Bob Mueller.I don’t know whether I can fill those shoes. But I know that however I do, I will be standing truly on the shoulders of a giant, someone who has made a remarkable difference in the life of this country. I can promise you, Mr. President and Mr. Director, that I will do my very best to honor and protect that legacy.”
The nominee said he could not describe his excitement to work again with the FBI.
“They are men and women who have devoted their lives to serving and protecting others and I simply can’t wait to be their colleague,” he said.
One of the most dramatic episodes of Comey’s tenure as deputy attorney general in the Bush administration came in 2004, when then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was ill in a hospital.
Bush’s White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andrew Card pressed him in his hospital bed to re-authorize a controversial program allowing federal agents to eavesdrop on phone conversations without a warrant.
Comey, who was acting as attorney general in Ashcroft’s stead, rushed to the hospital and intervened. Changes were subsequently made to the program and Comey drew wide praise.
Obama alluded to the incident today, saying Comey “was prepared to give up a job he loved rather than be part of something he felt was fundamentally wrong.”
After leaving the Bush administration, Comey was general counsel at Lockheed Martin, then in 2010 joined Westport-based Bridgewater Associates, a hedge fund, overseeing the legal, compliance, and security departments.
He now serves as a senior research scholar and Hertog Fellow in National Security Law at Columbia Law School as well as a member of the board of directors at HSBC Holdings.
Since 2012, he has also served as a member of the Defense Legal Policy Board, charged with providing independent advice to the Secretary of Defense.
Comey, who purchased his three-acre, six-bedroom home in Westport in 2010, has told friends he intends to maintain his residence here, where he is a registered Republican.
See White House video of announcement here.
Posted 06/21/13 at 09:05 PM