Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is throwing his support behind an unlikely proposal that Judge Merrick Garland should replace fired FBI Director James Comey, acknowledging on Tuesday that he had recommended the former Supreme Court nominee to President Trump.
“It may surprise people, but he has a deep background in criminal law, he was the prosecutor in the Oklahoma City bombing case, and I think it would make it clear that President Trump will continue the tradition at the FBI of having an apolitical professional,” McConnell said during an appearance on Bloomberg.
The endorsement was an about-face for McConnell, who was instrumental in blocking former President Barack Obama‘s attempt to confirm Garland to the Supreme Court last year by refusing to hold hearings or votes on the judge.
But Democrats are unlikely to accept Garland trading his lifetime appointment on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia for a 10-year FBI director appointment that Trump could cut short at any time by firing him.
During Garland’s Supreme Court confirmation process, McConnell argued that it should be Obama’s successor to choose who would fill the Supreme Court seat left empty by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Trump eventually claimed that title, and nominated Neil Gorsuch to the court. He was confirmed in April.
But Garland, the chief judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals, has been floated in recent days as a surprising possible candidate for FBI director after Trump’s abrupt firing of Comey last week.
A former adviser to McConnell, Josh Holmes, told Fox News on Sunday that the majority leader thought nominating Garland for FBI director would be a “fantastic idea.”
McConnell also said that Garland would almost certainly garner bipartisan support in the Senate, and would likely be seen as a move to keep the FBI independent and free of politics.
“I think if he picks someone with a deep background in law enforcement, who has no history of political involvement, a genuine expert — and the reason I mention Garland is he’s an example of that — it will serve him well, serve the country well and lead to a more bipartisan approach,” McConnell said.