Obama wants FBI's Robert Mueller to stay on 2 extra years

May 12, 2011|By Michael Muskal | Los Angeles Times
  • Obama says Robert Mueller has set "the gold standard" for leading the bureau.
Obama says Robert Mueller has set "the gold standard" for leading… (Katie Falkenberg / For The…)

President Obama will ask Congress to allow Robert Mueller to stay on as FBI director for two more years, the White House announced Thursday.

The requested extension comes as the White House has been searching for a successor to Mueller, whose 10-year term expires Sept. 4. The rare extension would give the administration more time and avoid any possibility of a confirmation battle.

President Obama praised Mueller’s tenure, saying he has set “the gold standard” for leading the bureau. Obama also said the extension was needed for continuity to his national security team.

“Given the ongoing threats facing the United States, as well as the leadership transitions at other agencies like the Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency, I believe continuity and stability at the FBI is critical at this time,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House. “I am grateful for his leadership, and ask Democrats and Republicans in Congress to join together in extending that leadership for the sake of our nation’s safety and security.”

Obama recently nominated Leon E. Panetta to become Defense secretary and Gen. David Petraeus to take over the CIA from Panetta.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he was open to the extension but wanted to look at the issue. Grassley is the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the FBI.

"This is an unusual step by the president, and is somewhat of a risky precedent to set," Grassley stated. "Thirty-five years ago, Congress limited the FBI director's term to one 10-year appointment as an important safeguard against improper political influence and abuses of the past. There's no question that Director Mueller has proven his ability to run the FBI. And we live in extraordinary times. So, I'm open to the president's idea, but I will need to know more about his plan to ensure that this is not a more permanent extension that would undermine the purposes of the term limit."

On the House side, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the head of the House Judiciary Committee, was more positive.

“Serving as the head of the FBI in a post 9/11 world is not an easy job. It involves extremely tough decisions and many sleepless nights. I support the president’s decision to extend Director Mueller’s term for an additional two years and agree that it is important to maintain continuity for our intelligence community during this transition period,” he stated.

The sixth person to serve as FBI director, Mueller was originally nominated by President George W. Bush as FBI director on July 5, 2001, and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on Aug. 2, 2001. Mueller has also served as acting deputy attorney general. He took over the FBI a week before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

When he was named to take over the FBI, he was serving as U.S. attorney in San Francisco. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, praised the decision to seek the extension.

“It is a tribute to Director Mueller's dedication to public service that he has agreed to serve for another two years after a term that began just one week before Sept. 11,” she said. “This is a sensitive and challenging time. I strongly support keeping Director Mueller in this position of leadership for an additional two years, a decision that will also provide important stability in President Obama's national security team.”

Also praising the move was Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder.

“A short-term legislative change will allow Bob to remain at the FBI for an additional two years so the president’s counterterrorism team can continue to work together seamlessly. The United States faces ongoing threats from terrorists intent on attacking us both at home and abroad, and it is crucial that the FBI have sustained, strong leadership to confront that threat,” Holder stated. “I hope he will be allowed to continue providing the able leadership and unquestioned integrity for which he is known for the remainder of the president’s term."

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