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Mike Lee: Trump's choice to replace Comey at FBI should be . . . Merrick Garland?
I know what your first reaction is. He's kidding. Or he's somehow trolling Trump. (Lee has never been a fan.) Obviously there's no way a rock-ribbed conservative like Mike Lee would want Barack Obama's Supreme Court choice running the FBI.
Say, is Lee crazy for tweeting at 6 in the morning? I ask because that's what we're told every time Trump does it:
Instead of a special prosecutor, @realDonaldTrump should nominate Merrick Garland to replace James Comey.— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) May 11, 2017
Carroll added on Twitter that Garland "has extensive prosecutorial experience including overseeing the OKC bombing investigation."
Garland, then working for the Department of Justice, helped oversee the investigation and prosecution of the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing.
Whoever succeeds Comey—who was fired Tuesday night by Trump—would be responsible for overseeing the FBI's investigation into Russia's meddling in the election and any possible connections between the campaign and Moscow.
The next FBI director will only need 51 votes to clear the Senate after Democrats changed the rules for executive nominations, meaning Trump could clear his pick through without help from Democrats.
If Trump nominated Garland that would also open up a seat on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, allowing Trump to fill the vacancy.
This is not that bad an idea. In fact, it might be a really good one.
Now, to grasp that, you have to get past the partisan reflex and recognize a few things:
First, the FBI director is really not an ideological job, or rather, it isn't if it's done correctly. Anyone could make it ideological by targeting certain people and certain crimes while ignoring others. But if the job is done as designed, it's your skill as an investigator and as an organizational leader that allows you to succeed.
Second, Democrats and the media are poised to claim that anyone Trump nominates will tank the Russia nomination in order to please the boss. How is that going to go if they're suddenly leveling the charge at a guy they've spent the last year praising as the epitome of all that is good and decent?
Third, if there really is nothing to this Russia thing - which I suspect is the case - I can think of nothing sweeter than having Merrick Garland be the one to publicly say so when the investigation is concluded.
Fourth, he really does appear to be eminently qualified. Now, whether he would want to work for Trump (or more directly for Jeff Sessions and Ron Rosenstein) is another matter. But making a job offer and getting acceptance for it are always two separate matters.
Fifth, giving Trump the chance to fill that seat on the D.C. Circuit would be gold.
Now, you ask, why should we trust anyone Obama wanted on the Court to be anything other than an ideological tool? On the Supreme Court, you wouldn't. But there is a long history of FBI directors being nominated by presidents regardless of party differences, and working well with presidents regardless of party differences. Remember Louis Freeh? He was put in the job by Bill Clinton, but George W. Bush loved him - at least at first. And Obama actually extended Bush-appointed Robert Mueller for two years beyond his original term because he was simply too essential to the nation's counterterrorism efforts at the time.
Some jobs invite your abuse for ideological reasons. Others don't. FBI director generally doesn't, and remember that if Garland were inclined to abuse his position, he'd have to answer to Jeff Sessions and ultimately to Trump.
Also remember, Obama nominated Garland at least in part because he has a very good bipartisan reputation. That doesn't mean he wouldn't have been a liberal Justice - he would have, which is why he couldn't be confirmed under any circumstances - but Obama was hoping he might have a ghost of a chance because he is generally liked and respected on both sides of the aisle.
There's a school of thought that says, the hell with it, if the left wants war then give 'em war and put Trey Gowdy in there. I have some sympathy for that position. But I also think that sometimes you win the war more decisively by making the counterintuitive move that no one was prepared for, because it's simply too brilliant to counter.
Dan's new novel, BACKSTOP, is a story of spiritual warfare and baseball. Download it from Amazon here!