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Opinion

Opinion: Lindsey Graham is right: John Cornyn shouldn’t be the next FBI director

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Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas is among a list of candidates to replace James B. Comey as head of the FBI.
(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

Sometimes I think newspapers should disregard their stylebooks and identify the senior senator from South Carolina as Lindsey Graham (R-Voice of Reason).

The latest example of his too-rare rationality was his objection to the suggestion that President Trump should appoint Graham’s colleague Sen. John Cornyn of Texas to replace James B. Comey as director of the FBI.

“John Cornyn under normal circumstances would be a superb choice to be FBI director,” Graham said on “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “But these are not normal circumstances.”

Graham was referring, obviously, to Trump’s clumsy decision to fire Comey, which, as the president told NBC’s Lester Holt, was accompanied by the thought that “you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.”

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Cornyn isn’t the only politician under consideration for the FBI position. Trump also is looking at former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), a onetime FBI agent who has been endorsed by the FBI Agents Assn., a group comprising 13,000 present and former FBI agents.

Presented by moderator Chuck Todd with both the Cornyn and Rogers options, Graham stick to his guns: “I think it’s now time to pick someone who comes from within the ranks or has such a reputation that has no political background at all that can go into the job on day one.”

Trump and Atty. Gen. his Attorney General Jeff Sessions are interviewing candidates who match Graham’s job description, including acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who probably irked the president last week when he told the Senate Intelligence Committee that — contrary to administration claims that Comey had lost the support of the FBI’s rank and file — “Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day.”

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Other candidates reportedly under consideration are former Assistant U.S. Atty. Gen. Alice Fisher, New York appeals court Judge Michael Garcia, FBI special agent Adam Lee and U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson of Virginia.

If even a couple of other Republicans adopted Graham’s views and Senate Democrats held the line, Trump could be forced to name an FBI director who hadn’t run for office in a partisan election. (That seems a more realistic strategy than holding confirmation of a new FBI director hostage to a promise by Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein to name a special counsel to supervise the investigation of possible collusion between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.)

The FBI director is appointed to a 10-year-term (admittedly one that a president can cut short) precisely because he or she is supposed to be independent of any political party. Nominating partisan Republicans such as Cornyn or Rogers to head the bureau would blur that distinction in the public mind. If Trump can’t see that, Cornyn and Rogers should ponder Graham’s words — and withdraw their names from consideration.

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