FBI Director Search Continues as Trump Meets With John Pistole, Christopher Wray

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President Donald Trump is meeting with John Pistole, pictured here speaking in 2012, and Christopher Wray on May 30 to discuss the FBI director position, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said. Andrew Burton/REUTERS

President Donald Trump is meeting with John Pistole and Christopher Wray on Tuesday afternoon as part of his search for a new FBI director, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday during his daily press briefing. Pistole and Wray join at least 11 others Trump has considered to replace James Comey, whom he fired on May 9.

News of the interviews suggests that Trumps' search for an FBI director is once again making progress following the president’s trip overseas. Prior to the trip, Trump had said he might announce the nomination by May 19, and that he would make the decision “very soon.” But the search soon seemed to stall, with at least six people withdrawing their names from consideratio, including former Senator Joe Lieberman.

Related: Joe Lieberman drops out of FBI director search

Pistole is president of Anderson University, a Christian college in Indiana. Before joining the university he worked for the FBI, starting as a special agent in 1983 and rising to deputy director in 2004. At the bureau, he created a Health Care Fraud Task Force and a Public Corruption Task Force and led its counterterrorism program after the September 11 attacks. Later, he left the bureau and served as head of the Transportation Security Administration, starting in 2010. He became president of the university in 2015.

Wray, the other person meeting with Trump on Tuesday, served as assistant United States attorney general from 2003 to 2005, during which he oversaw the criminal division of the Department of Justice. He had previously been associate deputy attorney general and principal associate deputy attorney general. Prior to his time at the Justice Department, he was assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.

Wray is now a partner at King and Spalding, one of a few law firms that Trump has turned to for presidential appointments, along with Kasowitz Benson Torres. The president nominated Gilbert Kaplan, a partner at King and Spalding, for under secretary of commerce for international trade, a position in the Department of Commerce. Another partner at the firm, Bobby Burchfield, is ethics adviser to the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, which holds the president’s business assets. Dan Coats, Trump’s director of national intelligence, also once worked at the firm.

If nominated, Wray might face questions during a confirmation process about whether he worked on any cases related to Trump’s trust or the Trump Organization. An executive order the president signed in January states that for the first two years in a position, presidential appointees cannot “participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients.” Appointees are exempt from the rule if they did not “personally provide services” to the former clients. Lieberman, senior counsel at Kasowitz Benson Torres, might have faced similar scrutiny regarding his firm’s ties to the president.

If Trump cares about loyalty, which he said in his 2004 book, How to Get Rich, is one of his four key critera for making hires, recent comments Pistole made about the president’s proposal to cut certain airport security programs could hurt his chances for nomination. In March, Pistole told The Washington Post that one aspect of the plan “creates a vulnerability.” Regarding another aspect of the proposal, he told McClatchy, “To me, it's a relatively small investment for the potential for the risk-mitigation value.”

FBI personnel would likely praise the nomination of a person who has decades of experience with the bureau, such as Pistole. But that experience is uncommon for directors. In the modern era of the FBI, since the death of longtime director J. Edgar Hoover in 1972, only two of its six leaders had worked for the bureau: Clarence Kelley and Louis Freeh. More have had experience as Justice Department officials or with the U.S. attorney's office, as Wray has had.

At the daily press briefing on Tuesday, Spicer would not elaborate on whether Pistole and Wray are the leading candidates. “When the president feels as though he’s met with the right candidate, he’ll let us know, but he’ll meet with candidates today and continue to do so until he finds the right leader,” Spicer said.

Others who have not publicly withdrawn their names from consideration for the post are Fran Townsend, who was an adviser to President George W. Bush, former Congressman Mike Rogers, former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, FBI acting Director Andrew McCabe and former Justice Department official Ken Wainstein.