Administration Tries To Hurry FBI Director’s Confirmation
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The White House and the FBI are moving with unusual speed to get U.S. District Judge Louis Freeh confirmed as FBI director. They rushed the background check and paperwork to Capitol Hill within two days of his nomination.
″They’re way ahead of the curve here,″ Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del., said Thursday. ″We are way ahead of where we usually are.″
President Clinton nominated the former FBI agent and federal prosecutor to the bureau’s top job Tuesday afternoon, and the FBI background check and completed committee questionnaire were submitted by early Thursday.
Biden and ranking Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah said that while confirmation was possible before Congress’ Aug. 6 recess, no hearing date had yet been set.
The chairman said he saw no problems likely to force a delay.
″He looks first-rate,″ Biden said of Freeh. ″If anybody seems tailor- made for a job, this guy seems to be.″
FBI background checks often take four to six weeks, and some nominees have taken even longer to complete the committee questionnaire.
Just-fired FBI Director William Sessions was nominated July 24, 1987, and confirmed two months later. Sessions had been a federal judge 13 years at the time.
The task was simplified for Freeh because it has been just two years since he completed the committee forms and the FBI checked his background for his nomination by President Bush to the federal bench in Manhattan.
The FBI check was completed last Thursday, said a federal law enforcement official, and the work was less cumbersome than normal because the bureau did not have to re-verify such things as residences dating back years ago or Freeh’s educational background.
Freeh’s own questionnaire included many responses that were identical to the previous one. One difference was a fourth son, born a year ago.
He reported an income of $142,500 last year - his judicial salary plus $7,500 for teaching at Fordham Law School. He listed assets of $523,000 compared to $224,275 in 1991, but he took out a home mortgage more than $300,000 larger than the one he had two years ago.
Freeh was able to retype his 1981-91 accomplishments: a federal prosecutor in Manhattan, handling numerous organized crime cases. He also led the successful prosecution of Walter Leroy Moody Jr. in the mail-bombing deaths of U.S. District Judge Robert S. Vance in Birmingham, Ala., and civil rights attorney Robert Robinson in Savannah, Ga.
In a new section on his judicial experience, he bragged that he maintained the lowest pending caseload in the Manhattan courthouse for the last three months by fixing firm trial dates, intervening early in settlement discussions and hastening pre-trial work.
Sessions appeared Thursday night on ABC’s ″Prime Time Live″ and again blamed former Attorney General William Barr and a group of longtime FBI agents for his downfall.
Barr, in one of his last acts in the outgoing Bush administration, released a report accusing Sessions of ethical lapses ranging from dodging taxes to billing the taxpayers for a security fence around his home that did not meet FBI security standards. He denies all wrongdoing.
″The future is bright,″ Sessions said in an ABC interview.
Appearing on the program with his outspoken wife, Alice, Sessions said he knew when he refused to resign that ″the guillotine’s ahead.″
″And you know that it’s going to get you and you know that the whole world is watching,″ he said. But he said that he refused to quit on principle that he had sworn to complete the 10-year term. And he said he wanted to keep the FBI free of politics.
″The ultimate act of politicizing the bureau has happened,″ he said.
One Judiciary Committee member, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., was pleased by Freeh’s law enforcement background but that he did not want to be rushed into confirmation.
Leahy noted that the committee is in the midst of hearings on U.S. Circuit Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s nomination to the Supreme Court and Congress is trying to reconcile deficit reduction bills. ″If the White House had wanted to be sure to have him confirmed before the August recess, it should have announced him some weeks ago,″ he said.
Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., was more optimistic.
″I think that the administration has learned, hopefully, that they should do their homework before they get here,″ Simpson said. ″Certainly, they did it with Judge Ginsburg, and perhaps they’ve done it with this one. I think we can get there″ before the recess.