President Donald Trump said on Saturday he wants to move quickly to nominate a new FBI director to replace James Comey, who he fired this week.
Trump told reporters traveling with him on Air Force One that he may be able to make his decision on the Federal Bureau of Investigation head before he leaves on his first foreign trip later next week.
“Even that is possible,” Trump said.
Critics have assailed Trump for abruptly dismissing Comey just as the agency is investigating alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, and possible Moscow ties to the Trump presidential campaign. Both the president and Russia denies the claims.
Trump said the candidates to replace Comey were “outstanding people” and “very well known.”
Trump is considering 11 people to to lead the FBI, a White House official said. Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Republican Sen. John Cornyn, New York Appeals Court Judge Michael Garcia and former Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher will be interviewed on Saturday for the post, an administration official said.
The decision is subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate, where Republicans have a majority.
Since Tuesday, the White House has given conflicting explanations for Comey’s dismissal. The initial reason given in Comey’s termination letter was that Trump was acting on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Further reasons given were that Comey:
• improperly handled Hillary Clinton’s email scandal
• “wasn’t doing a good job”
• lost the respect of the FBI
• was already going to be fired by Trump
• was heading the FBI investigation into Russia’s ties to Trump and its possible interference in the 2016 election
Late next week, Trump will visit Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican on his first foreign trip since becoming president.
First lady Melania Trump will accompany him, and is expected to make “several public appearances,” her spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said, according to The Washington Examiner.
Trump’s first overseas visit comes ahead of his previously scheduled attendance of a NATO summit in Brussels and a Group of Seven meeting in Sicily.
Metro staff reporter Nikki M. Mascali contributed to this report.