TOPICS > Politics

Obama to Nominate Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey as Head of the FBI

May 30, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT

JUDY WOODRUFF: We turn back to Washington and examine the man President Obama is expected to choose as the new FBI director and what he will face leading the agency.

James Comey would come to the FBI with a Republican resume and a history of taking positions that won him Democratic support. Between 2003 and 2005, Comey served as deputy attorney general in the Bush administration. In 2004, while his boss, John Ashcroft, was ill, Comey refused to reauthorize the administration’s program of warrantless wiretapping.

That led to a confrontation with White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales at Ashcroft’s hospital bedside. Comey recounted the incident at a Senate hearing in 2007.

JAMES COMEY, Former Deputy Attorney General: I was angry. I thought I just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man, who did not have the powers of the attorney general, because they had been transferred to me.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A year later, Comey tried, unsuccessfully, to limit water-boarding and other enhanced interrogation methods used on terror suspects.

Since leaving the Justice Department, he’s served as a corporate attorney, first at Lockheed Martin and later at the hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates. Those ties to business may raise questions for some.

In a statement last night, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said: “The administration’s efforts to criminally prosecute Wall Street for its part in the economic downturn have been abysmal, and his agency would have to help build the case against some of his colleagues.”

Comey is also sure to face confirmation questions about how he would handle leaks of sensitive information. The Obama Justice Department is now under scrutiny for its tough tactics with journalists. Comey addressed the subject in a speech in 2007.

JAMES COMEY: Troop movements, search warrants about to be executed, the undercover identify of a covert operative with the CIA, some things can’t leak. The flip side of that is, when they do leak, the government has to do something about it, has to, because we care about the rule of law.

JUDY WOODRUFF: If he is nominated and confirmed, Comey would replace the current FBI director, Robert Mueller, who assumed the agency’s top spot just seven days before the Sept. 11th attacks.