A search for a new permanent FBI director is well underway. Given the political firestorm sparked by the timing of and manner in which James Comey was fired, President Trump must tread carefully in seeking a replacement.
To restore lost confidence in his administration, Trump must find an extraordinary nominee to succeed Comey; a person of the highest moral standing and impeccable legal credentials. Above all, the nominee should be staunchly nonpartisan, respected by both political parties but beholden to neither and fiercely committed to the pursuit of justice.
To succeed, he or she should also be experienced in the bureaucratic swamp that is Washington. Finally, this person must have no personal or business ties to President Trump before, during or after the campaign.
This should be obvious, but given the names that keep popping up as likely successors, President Trump seems not to have grasped the lesson inherent in his plummeting approval ratings. (Quinnipiac reported today that Mr. Trump's job approval now stands at a near-record low of 36 percent.) Most of the names being whispered about by White House officials would not begin to restore morale at the F.B.I., nor the public's faith in the Trump White House.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, among the most frequently named by Washington's anonymous mentioners, was a surrogate and virtual spokesman for President Trump throughout the campaign. Ditto for former-presidential-rival-turned-Trump-transition-manager, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — he should be disqualified simply because of his involvement in the Bridgegate scandal.
Although Christie denied knowing about the bridge closings in advance, two key aides were convicted of charges connected with the closing down of George Washington Bridge lanes to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey for not endorsing Christie's re-election. What's more, his nomination wouldn't do much to restore President Trump's credibility. Christie has among the lowest job approval ratings of any governor in the nation.
There is one person being considered, however, who more than meets the credibility test: New York City's former Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly. Reached today by phone, Commissioner Kelly declined to say whether he had been contacted by the White House or would take the job if it were offered, but few former public servants can equal the range of his experience or integrity.
Now the vice chairman of K2 Intelligence, a New York-based private security firm, and a member of its advisory board, Kelly was the longest-serving police commissioner in New York's history. Working his way up from cadet to commissioner, he spent 13 years in two non-consecutive terms, the only person to do so.
A life-long New Yorker, Kelly served in 25 different police commands. Under his leadership, violent crime plunged in the city, and the NYPD pioneered a counter-terrorism effort that is widely considered a model for cities throughout the nation and the world.
A retired Marine Corps Reserve colonel, Kelly has wide-ranging public service experience — as the head of the United Nations Mission in Haiti, as a vice president for Interpol and as the Treasury Department's under secretary for enforcement and the customs service commissioner under President Bill Clinton.
Kelly would likely enjoy bipartisan support. He was considered for F.B.I. director in 1993 and in 2011; Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) endorsed him for the post. Two years later, Schumer endorsed him again to become secretary of homeland security.
Such credentials would do much to boost public confidence in the notoriously chaotic Trump administration. Nominating Kelly would also be seen as an indication that Trump intends to let the investigation into Russia's meddling in last year's presidential election proceed unimpeded.
Anyone who knows Kelly understands that he would never agree to close or slow down an ongoing investigation for partisan political purposes. That might just be a stumbling block to his nomination. President Trump or his aides might well fear appointing a man so widely regarded not only as incorruptible but fiercely independent.