Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) took himself out of the running for FBI director today, describing how he chatted with former FBI Director Robert Mueller, a former neighbor of the senator, while deliberating President Trump’s request.
Lieberman told MSNBC that Trump’s interest “happened very quickly and very surprisingly” last week.
Trump called him, the senator said, and said, “I’d like you to think about whether you want to be director of the FBI. I think you’d be great at it. And I’m sure he said that to other people. And I’d like to talk to you more about it. And my first reaction was just honest, Mr. President, I’m honored that you’d ask me to think about this, but honestly, I have a — I’m very happy with my life now.”
“You wrestle with it. You got the good life, you’re spending a little more time with your wife, your children, grandchildren. We’ve been blessed with 11. I’m very busy. I’m halftime at the law firm, working on advocacy groups like United Against Nuclear Iran, No Labels, etc. But here comes the call, and it’s in my blood to say, when the president of the United States asks you to do something, to serve your country, you got to really think about it seriously,” he continued.
“And yes, part of the challenge was to step in and try to restore respect for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which I deeply respect. And part of that, strangely enough, for somebody who comes from a political background, is to have a director who lowers the profile and just has the bureau do what it’s supposed to do, fight terrorism, fight crime, do the best investigations in the world.”
Lieberman was interviewed for the job on the same day that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the appointment of Mueller as special counsel in the investigation of Russia’s campaign influence operation.
His conversation with Trump, Lieberman said, was “really was about the FBI and him making an appeal to me why he hoped I would do it, and me giving him some of my ideas, same I just spoke to you about.”
“He urged me to please think about it. He called me the next night, Thursday night. He said, I wanted it decided by tomorrow morning before I leave for the foreign trip. I don’t know if I can do it. Think about it, and then I decided to postpone it, which was really fortunate for me because I just heard 2 1/2 days before about possibly an upheaval in my life.”
Lieberman sought the advice of Clinton-era FBI Director Louis Freeh, who “was very affirmative,” and Mueller, who told him, “This call is your call. But here’s what the job is like. You come to it with a different set of skills… you can do it, you’ll do it in a different way.”
Lieberman said he was “disappointed” at the pushback from some Dems on Capitol Hill about his prospective nomination, “although I guess when I step back from it, I wasn’t surprised because everything is so partisan in Washington. And there’s still a group, probably on the far left of the Democratic Party, that still doesn’t forgive me.”