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Trump is close to picking a new FBI director and he's leaning toward Joe Lieberman

 (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

President Trump is leaning toward tapping Joe Lieberman to head the FBI and could announce his pick before he leaves for the Middle East on Friday, a White House official said.

Lieberman, who was Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore’s running mate in the 2000 campaign, made a favorable impression on Trump during a meeting in the White House on Wednesday, the official said.

Lieberman, who is 75, would be an unusual choice and not just because he has limited experience in law enforcement. 

He was Connecticut's attorney general for six years before he was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1988 and served four terms. He was a Democrat for most of that 24-year period, and unsuccessfully ran for president in 2004. 

He later became an independent, and in 2008, spoke at the Republican National Convention to endorse Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), then the GOP presidential nominee. Lieberman endorsed Hillary Clinton in last year's election. 

During a meeting Thursday with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Trump told reporters Thursday that he's "very close" to choosing a new FBI director. Asked if Lieberman was one of the finalists, Trump replied “yes.”

Trump has been scrambling to find a new FBI chief since he abruptly fired former FBI Director James B. Comey on May 9.

On Wednesday, the Justice Department appointed an independent special counsel to take over the FBI's investigation of possible collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia during last year's presidential race.

That means a new FBI director won't have direct oversight of the probe.

It would be unusual to name a former politician to run the FBI, a law enforcement agency that views itself as outside partisan politics. The director's job has a 10-year term, precisely to avoid a political taint, although few FBI chiefs serve the full term.

Lieberman got a vote of confidence from a former colleague and close friend, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

"I think Joe Lieberman is a pillar of credibility," Graham told reporters in the Capitol. "I think he would be a good choice."

Now that there’s a special counsel, Graham added, the “new FBI director doesn’t have to worry about riding herd over an investigation of the man who appointed him.”

Since leaving the Senate, Lieberman has worked at a large New York law firm that has represented Trump’s business interests in the past.

He helped the Trump administration earlier this year when he introduced Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, during her Senate confirmation hearing.

In addition to Lieberman, Trump met Wednesday afternoon with former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, FBI acting director Andrew McCabe and former senior FBI official Richard A. McFeely.

A handful of other candidates interviewed for the job have publicly bowed out.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C) withdrew his name on Monday, as did Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who said he wanted to stay in the Senate to push for conservative legislation.

Alice Fisher, a former senior Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, also withdrew her name.

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