The fallout from Trump's ongoing FBI scandal has revealed a new, unexpected problem for the Trump administration: potential FBI directors don't want the job.
The quandary emerged on Tuesday when two high-profile potential candidates, a moderate judge and a conservative senator, signaled they did not want the job. Speaking to Reuters, advisers to Judge Merrick Garland and U.S. Senator John Cornyn of Texas said they discouraged them from leading the FBI, cautioning that "they would be leaving important, secure jobs for one fraught with politics and controversy."
They added that the new FBI director would "have little job security and heightened scrutiny by political observers following President Donald Trump's abrupt firing of James Comey" on May 9.
Garland and Cornyn distancing themselves from the selection process just three days before Trump has said he may make a decision, points to the difficulties the White House has in filling the FBI post amid turmoil in the administration.
Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, "loves his job and is not interested in leaving the judiciary," said one source familiar with the judge's thinking.
Cornyn said in a statement that he had informed the White House that "the best way I can serve is continuing to fight for a conservative agenda in the U.S. Senate." A Republican Senate aide said Cornyn's staff also worried that the third-term Texas Senator could cut his- and their own- careers short by going to the FBI.
A third potential FBI head whose name was on the White House's short-list, former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, has also been persuaded to step out of the running according to Reuters. While Kelly has not said that he would not consider the job, he has so far not been interviewed.
As reported previously, another potential Comey replacement, Republican Representative Trey Gowdy - a former federal prosecutor whose name had been floated, and one of the favorites for the FBI chief post - said on Monday he was not interested in the director position.
It's not just the top FBI post that may remean vacant after the recent political turmoil: the difficulty in filling key administration jobs is not just limited to the FBI director post.
Trump’s habits of contradicting his top aides, demanding personal loyalty and punishing officials who contradict him in public has discouraged a number of experienced people from pursuing jobs, said three people who declined to discuss possible positions with administration officials.
"It’s becoming increasingly difficult to attract good people to work in this administration," said one senior official. "In other cases, veteran people with expertise are leaving or seeking posts overseas and away from this White House."
Meanwhile, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters on Tuesday that an announcement on FBI director was still possible before Trump leaves on his first foreign trip on Friday. He said the U.S. Department of Justice was still interviewing candidates. In light of recent events, it is more likely that Trump will announce terminations in the coming days instead of a new hire.