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Department of Justice has trouble hiring qualified people after Comey firing

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The president’s decision to fire Comey is not helping the Justice Department’s search for US attorneys.

President Donald Trump speaks to U.S. military troops at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Saturday, May 27, 2017, in Sigonella, Italy. CREDIT: AP/Evan Vucci

President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey has set back efforts to hire well-qualified people for key Justice Department posts — let alone find a new FBI director.

The Justice Department had already struggled to hire new people, since some prominent lawyers made pledges never to work for Trump, Politico reported on Sunday. Others disqualified themselves in the eyes of the White House by making negative statements about Trump during the campaign.

Comey’s abrupt ouster has apparently set back staffing efforts even further by alarming many potential candidates. Further reports that the president had told Russian officials that Comey was a “nut job” and asked Comey to pledge his loyalty and drop the investigation into form National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

In March, Trump cleaned house by firing 46 Obama-appointed U.S. attorneys. Of the 94 available slots that left behind, the White House has filled just one. In April, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary B. McCord, the official leading the department’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, announced she would also step down.

According to Politico, people close to the process of considering candidates said that scarcity has forced the administration to look at less experienced applicants.

The Trump administration has also struggled to find someone to replace Comey. Several candidates, including a former assistant attorney general and an FBI career official, removed themselves from consideration for the job, CNN reported last week. Although former Democratic senator Joe Lieberman was initially a finalist, despite his lack of relevant experience, the president reportedly changed his mind and chose to consider a broader pool of applicants.

‘Wrong, wrong, wrong’: An expert assessment of Joe Lieberman as FBI Director

Following the February resignation of Flynn, the national security adviser, after the Washington Post’s reported he discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador, the administration also had trouble hiring a new national security advisor.

Trump’s difficulty in finding a Comey replacement parallel his early stumbles in locating a successor for Flynn. His first choice, retired vice admiral, Robert S. Harward, backed out because of misgivings regarding the chaotic environment of the White House and Trump’s “unpredictable style,” according to The New York Times.

A friend of Harward’s described the decision in more vivid terms when he told CNN that Harward had called the offer a “shit sandwich.” Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster took the job instead.

The challenge of filling key justice department and national security roles is an administration-wide issue. Over 400 out of 559 key executive branch positions do not have any nominee, according to the Washington Post.


Department of Justice has trouble hiring qualified people after Comey firing was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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