WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A week after U.S. President Donald Trump said he was close to picking a new FBI director to replace the one he fired, the White House has decided to renew its search, CNN reported on Wednesday.
The Republican president said last Thursday he was “very close” to selecting a new head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to replace James Comey, and that former Senator Joseph Lieberman was among the top candidates.
Trump left the following day on his first trip abroad as president, a nine-day visit to the Middle East and Europe, without naming a replacement.
Citing an unidentified senior administration official, CNN said Trump now wants to consider additional candidates for the job.
The White House and Lieberman did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for the Justice Department, which has played a lead role in the search, said it had no further information.
Trump fired Comey on May 9 in a surprise announcement that sparked days of political turmoil. Comey was leading the FBI’s probe of possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives whom U.S. intelligence officials say meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Trump and Russia deny any collusion.
Lieberman is a senior counsel at the New York-based law firm of Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, which has represented Trump on various matters for years.
Trump has tapped one of the firm’s partners, Marc Kasowitz, to be his private attorney while a special counsel investigates whether his presidential campaign worked with Russia to defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
If Trump were to nominate Lieberman, Lieberman might not be able to participate in the Russia investigation for a period of two years without a Justice Department waiver, according to Kathleen Clark, a professor of legal ethics at Washington University School of Law.
A federal regulation restricts newly hired government lawyers from investigating their prior law firm’s clients for one year. This cooling-off period was extended to two years by an executive order Trump signed in January.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said last Wednesday that Trump was scheduled to interview four candidates for the position before departing on his trip: Lieberman; acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe; former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating; and former senior FBI official Richard McFeely.
Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Additional reporting by Jan Wolfe and Julia Edwards Ainsley; editing by Marla Dickerson and Jonathan Oatis