A small but vocal group of Washington attorneys are privately criticizing the nomination of James Comey to lead the FBI, telling lawmakers that the former Deputy Attorney General has allowed his own sanctimony to cloud his decisions.
“Jim has a flair for the dramatic and a desire to be the moral savior of mankind,” a former Bush White House official told The Daily Beast. “You have to worry about putting that much power in the hands of someone inclined to cast himself as the hero and others as the villains.”
Comey, who served as deputy to Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, had a high-profile falling out with the Bush administration when he stood up to the White House over a surveillance program he believed to be illegal.
Comey testified that he and FBI Director Robert Mueller raced to Ashcroft’s bedside in 2004 to prevent then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and White House chief of staff Andy Card from getting the Attorney General to sign off on aspects of the program the Justice Department had determined were illegal.
This same decision that his critics have deemed as self-righteous has been hailed by his supporters as a sign that he would put the law above his own politics.
Friends and former colleagues have nothing but praise for Comey’s leadership style.
“Jim Comey always helps morale everywhere he goes,” John Davis, former assistant U.S. Attorney and criminal chief of the Eastern District of Virginia, told Main Justice. “When he was the DAG, he visited almost every district in the country. The people who work for him feel that they are strongly and consistently supported.”
Davis worked with Comey on multiple occasions, including as the number two prosecutor when Comey, then the assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, oversaw the investigation into the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia in 1996.
While President Barack Obama has not made the nomination official, many insiders have said they think he has a strong shot at Senate confirmation.
“We don’t see any speed bumps on the road,” a Republican aide to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will first take up the nomination, told Susan Davis of USA Today. What’s more, a senior Democratic congressional aide said his side had picked up no rumblings that Republicans might rally in opposition to Comey, Davis wrote.
As Main Justice reported earlier in the week, however, Comey could face criticism from Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has opposed nearly every nominee put forward by the president.
Cruz recently joined the GOP chorus calling for Attorney General Eric Holder to step down following criticism about his knowledge of the Department of Justice’s leak investigations involving journalists.