US President Donald Trump said he will act swiftly to nominate a new FBI director and may announce his pick as early as next week, before he sets off on his first foreign trip since taking office.
“Even that is possible,” Trump told journalists when asked if he might announce his nominee by Friday, May 19, when he is expected to leave for Europe and the Middle East. The president was speaking on board Air Force One on his way to Lynchburg, Virginia, where he was scheduled to give a commencement address at Liberty University.
Trump is considering 11 people for the post of FBI head, a White House official told Reuters.
Trump has described the candidates as “very well known” and “outstanding people.”
Four candidates – acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, New York Appeals Court Judge Michael Garcia, and former Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher – were scheduled for interviews on Saturday.
The interviews are conducted by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, at the Justice Department headquarters.
Fisher was the first interviewed, AP reports, adding that she spent an hour and a half in the building and left declining to speak to the press.
The nomination is subject to confirmation by the US Senate, where Republicans have a majority at the moment.
Trump announced his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey on May 9. Comey had been leading an investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and Trump’s links to Russia. The decision to fire Comey was met with harsh criticism from many Democrats, who say Trump is trying to derail an investigation that poses a threat to his presidency.
The White House reacted by saying that the Department of Justice, bipartisan members of Congress and “most importantly, the rank and file of the FBI” had all “lost confidence” in Comey, adding that Trump had considered letting Comey go “since the day he was elected.”
On May 12, Trump called Comey a “showboat” and a “grandstander” in an interview on NBC, accusing him of lack of competence and inability to end the turmoil within the FBI. He said that he still wants the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the election to continue.
“If Russia did anything, I want to know that,” he said, insisting that there was no “collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians.”