WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. appeals court judge Merrick Garland, turned away by the Senate last year for a Supreme Court post, is not interested in serving as FBI director, two sources said on Tuesday, even as the top Senate Republican recommended him for the job.
Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, has told people around him he “loves his job and is not interested in leaving the judiciary,” said one of the sources familiar with the judge’s thinking. The two sources spoke on condition of anonymity.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he has mentioned Garland to Republican President Donald Trump as a possible successor James Comey, who Trump fired last week as FBI chief. In an interview on Bloomberg Television, McConnell referred to Garland, a former federal prosecutor, as “an apolitical professional” to head the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Under McConnell’s leadership, the Senate last year refused to consider centrist Garland for a lifetime job as a Supreme Court justice after Democratic President Barack Obama nominated him in March 2016. In doing so, McConnell was able to allow Trump, who took office in January, to nominate Neil Gorsuch to fill the seat, restoring the Supreme Court’s conservative majority.
Garland, 64, has been praised by both Democrats and Republicans in his two decades on the appeals court. His appointment there is a lifetime one, and if he took on a 10-year term at the FBI it would open up another top judicial seat for Trump to fill.
Trump fired Comey during an FBI investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia.
Comey’s replacement would need to be someone with a deep background in law enforcement and no history of political involvement, McConnell said.
Garland “is an example of that,” McConnell added. “It would serve the country well and lead to, I think, a more bipartisan approach.”
Democrats have threatened to hold up a vote on a new FBI director until a special prosecutor is named to investigate the potential ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
At least 11 people have been under consideration for the FBI top job.
As a senior Justice Department official under Democratic President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, Garland oversaw the prosecution of Timothy McVeigh, the man who bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people.
Reporting by Lawrence Hurley, Susan Heavey and Julia Edwards Ainsley; Editing by Frances Kerry and Will Dunham