May 12, 2017

Toomey: Appoint Merrick Garland as FBI director

Toomey says Garland is nonpartisan

Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey suggested a familiar name to replace ousted FBI Director James Comey during a radio interview Friday morning. 

How about Judge Merrick Garland, the very man Senate Republicans refused to even give a nomination hearing for the Supreme Court vacancy last year? 

"He was a former prosecutor and had a terrific reputation," Toomey said in an interview with Bobby Gunther Walsh on NewsRadio 790 WAEB in Allentown. "Yeah, he's a Democrat, but nobody thinks he's a partisan guy. He's not been about politics in his career."

Garland, the chief judge of the D.C. Circuit of Appeals, was tapped by President Barack Obama to fill the Supreme Court vacancy caused by the death of conservative justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016.

But Senate Republicans, including Toomey, refused to hold confirmation hearings, saying the process should be delayed until after the election. 

The appointment of Garland likely would have shifted the balance of the Supreme Court to a liberal majority. Trump nominee Neil M. Gorsuch was confirmed in April.

But while Toomey didn't want Garland to sit on the Supreme Court, he views him as an ideal candidate to head the nation's top law enforcement agency.

"I don't want Merrick Garland to be nominated for the Supreme Court," Toomey said. "I have no worry that President Trump would nominate him and I would urge him very strongly not to. But to run the FBI — it's a totally different function." 

Eventually, Toomey said, the FBI will finish its investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, which attempted to tamper with the presidential election, U.S. intelligence agencies have said

A nonpartisan FBI director would go a long way toward helping the American people believe the results of that investigation, Toomey said. Right now, he said, there is no evidence that Trump's campaign colluded with the Russians.

"Maybe some evidence will emerge – and I certainly want to find it, if it's out there," Toomey said. "But if it's not — and at some point that's the conclusion and the American people have to believe that conclusion – they're more likely to believe it if the head of the FBI is not seen as somebody who has close ties to the Trump administration." 

Toomey is not the first Republican to toss out Garland's name as a candidate. Sen. Mike Lee, of Utah, tweeted Thursday that Trump should nominate Garland, who would be appointed to a 10-year-term.

Toomey added that Comey "lost all credibility" with the way he handled Hillary Clinton's email controversy, saying he improperly acted as a prosecutor.

But he said Trump should have dismissed Comey shortly after assuming office. He said Comey's firing on Tuesday fed into a "really ridiculous narrative" that Trump is undermining the FBI's investigation into his campaign's ties to Russia.

"That's totally unaffected," Toomey said. "That's a rude insult to the many hundreds of career FBI officials – the men and women who are not partisan. They're doing their job. They're going to do it regardless of who has been fired or not fired at the top of the organization.

"... I think the best thing the administration can do now is very quickly move to hire somebody with absolutely unimpeachable credentials and integrity – and who is not seen as partisan."

Listen to Toomey's entire interview, which included his thoughts on the health care debate, here