POLITICO (Washington) -- James B. Comey Jr., the top Bush administration official who rebelled against plans for domestic eavesdropping, is being pushed by some White House officials for inclusion on the short list of candidates to replace Supreme Court Justice David Souter, Democratic sources said.
President Barack Obama’s aides have narrowed the list of possibilities considerably, but more than a dozen candidates remain under formal consideration, the sources said.
Comey, a former federal prosecutor and deputy attorney general, is the sort of unconventional choice - someone who’s not a federal appeals court judge - that key senators and some administration officials have been urging the president to consider.
Comey, 48, has law-and-order credentials and is an authority on national-security cases, yet sees limits to how far government can go, and he stood up to oppose controversial Bush administration policies when other officials folded.
Comey threatened to resign as the No. 2 official at the Justice Department because of his objections to the planned domestic-eavesdropping program. He made his case in a private session with President George W. Bush that Comey described in 2007 congressional testimony as a “full exchange.”
Comey was deputy attorney general from 2003 to 2005, when he became senior vice president and general counsel of Lockheed Martin Corp. He is a father of five — four girls and a boy.
Officials who are impressed by Comey are pushing to have him included on a final list for the president’s consideration. No formal short list is yet on the president’s desk, because choices are still being weighed and vetted, and he has not met all the potential candidates.
Seven of them, first reported by The Associated Press, are: California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Appeals Court judges Sonia Sotomayor and Diane Pamela Wood.
Sources told POLITICO the list is accurate but, as AP said, incomplete. The name of Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick was floated early, but he is not believed to be under consideration.
Obama met with Senate Republican and Democratic leaders at the White House on Wednesday to discuss the process for nominating and selecting a new justice, but he told the senators he would not announce his nominee in coming days.
During the 40-minute Oval Office meeting, the president focused on the process and reiterated his desire to have the next justice seated by the time new Supreme Court session begins in October.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) made pitches for a nominee with real life experience, such as a governor or a law professor.
The senators said the president stressed that he wanted a respectful process; he did not mention any potential names.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he didn’t recommend anyone to the president, but encouraged him not to pick a “judicial activist.”
McConnell and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, urged Democrats to allow the standard 60-day vetting period after the nomination is announced before launching hearings.
“That’s important to give the committee the opportunity to review the record,” McConnell said. “In all likelihood, unless the president sends up a very controversial nominee, the vote should be able to occur well in advance of the first Monday in October.”
Said Sessions: “There should not be any perception of ramming this through on some artificial deadlines.”
Joking that Souter’s retirement “kind of messes up my schedule,” Reid said, “I told the president that we’re going to do the best we can, do this as quickly as we can, without any arbitrary deadlines.”
Reid also said if senators are prepared to call a hearing less than 60 days after Obama names a nominee, they will.
“We’re going to do the best we can with no, I repeat for the third time, no arbitrary deadlines,” he said.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the president told the senators he “welcomes consultation” as he makes a decision.
“There was agreement that the process would be civil and allow the nominee to get a fair hearing,” Gibbs told reporters.
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