Lieberman “Frontrunner” Despite Conflict

Paul Bass PhotoDonald Trump is reported to be leaning toward making Joe Lieberman his new FBI director, despite Lieberman’s work for a Trump-connected law firm and his scant criminal-law experience.

The former U.S. senator from New Haven was one of four candidates Trump was interviewing Wednesday as possible replacements for ousted FBI Director James Comey.

By Thursday afternoon, Lieberman was being pegged as the “frontrunner” after “bonding” with the president. Lieberman is 75; the FBI director is named to a 10-year term.

Lieberman served four six-year Senate terms while living in New Haven’s Westville neighborhood, three as a Democrat, then a final term as an independent after he lost the 2006 Democratic primary. He has a long history of working with Republicans as well as Democrats. He did endorse Democrat Hillary Clinton over Republican Trump in the 2016 presidential election. (Lieberman left New Haven after leaving office in 2013.)

Trump is facing a crisis in his presidency after firing Comey — allegedly because of Comey’s investigation into the Trump camp’s ties to Russia and Russian meddling in the 2016 election — and after the revelation this week that Trump allegedly asked Comey to spare former aide Michael Flynn in that probe, not to mention reports that Trump revealed sensitive intelligence secrets in a meeting with Russia’s ambassador. (Trump has denied all the allegations.)

Since leaving office, Lieberman, a former Connecticut attorney general, has taken a post as senior counsel at the New York-based law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres Friedman LLP.

The firm has for more than a decade been representing a prominent client in high-profile lawsuits—one Donald J. Trump.

That alone should disqualify Lieberman as FBI director, argued David Rosen, a prominent New Haven civil rights attorney who has also taught a course at Yale Law School on professional responsibility.

Rosen said in an interview that Lieberman “has a lifetime of ethical public service” to his credit. However, Rosen said, “I would be surprised if there’s no conflict of interest here.”

“Trump’s doings are on the FBI’s plate right now. To have one of his lawyers heading the FBI creates problems that it’s hard to see how to untangle,” Rosen remarked.

Another prominent local attorney and legal observer, Norm Pattis, wasn’t so sure about the potential conflict.

Kasowitz Benson, with a reputation as “Trump’s go-to law firm,” has 270 attorneys.

“It’s a large firm,” noted Pattis, who voted for Donald Trump for president in 2016. “The fact that that firm may have done work for Trump doesn’t mean that Lieberman did it. It’s not at all uncommon for the right hand not to know what the left hand is doing.”

Ethics aside, Pattis predicted that Lieberman will not be picked, for political reasons — “given the superheated political climate,” in which Trump may want to take care to avoid even the appearance of a conflict. Pattis also noted that Lieberman’s legal background is in civil, not criminal, law.

Trump is considering at least three other candidates for the FBI post:

• Andrew McCabe, the acting FBI director who testified against Trump’s version of events after Trump fired Comey.

• Frank Keating, Oklahoma’s former Republican governor and a former deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, who is a former FBI agent.

• Richard McFeely, who ran the FBI’s Baltimore field office.

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posted by: ElmCityVoice on May 17, 2017  4:13pm

Say it ain’t so! No Joe!

posted by: jim1 on May 17, 2017  5:44pm

You have to be making a joke. He is way to old, etc…..!!!

posted by: Brian McGrath on May 17, 2017  6:50pm

Not about Trump. About the FBI. An excellent choice.

posted by: ElmCityVoice on May 17, 2017  8:19pm

Can’t they find anyone under the age of 70 for any of these positions? Joe is a NO.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 17, 2017  8:21pm

Taking Bets.Trump Won’t Last for the Four Years.

posted by: William Kurtz on May 18, 2017  10:02am

Pattis voted for Trump and thinks there’s no conflict of interest? Welcome to the ‘nothing to see here’ brigade.

posted by: DrJay on May 18, 2017  11:19am

Joe would be fair and can do the job, but he’s 75 years old. We should select someone who will serve the entire 10 year term.

The Senate leadership (Republicans) should make it clear to the president that they will only confirm an excellent candidate who has bipartisan support.

posted by: citoyen on May 18, 2017  3:21pm

Joe Lieberman, especially in the latter part of his career, has demonstrated that he cares about nothing except Joe Lieberman.

I realize a plurality of CT voters, almost a majority, disagreed with me in 2006, electing him as an Independent after he lost the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont and refused egotistically to accept the decision of his party’s voters.  OK, I can accept that; it’s democracy.

But Lieberman’s egregious waffling, or seeming waffling, over a public option when Obamacare was being passed—all the while likely having no intention whatsoever of supporting it—and then, near the last moment, finally showing his hand and coming down against it, likely because of his political debts to CT’s private insurance industry—well, that was the last straw: the clear demonstration that when he really has power to affect it, he cares about the public interest not one whit.

Seems this afternoon that Joe is the front-runner for the job.  He and Trump “bonded.”

It would be interesting to know what Joe said to Trump when asked whether Trump would have his loyalty.

It would be interesting to know, in time, whether career FBI agents will believe that Joe has their backs.

posted by: citoyen on May 18, 2017  4:52pm

Oh, and of course (how could I forget?) there was his odious speech to the 2008 Republican Convention, endorsing McCain—and the horrible Palin—and trashing Obama.  This gave him an enormous spotlight.  It was all about him.

posted by: RobotShlomo on May 18, 2017  5:11pm

Lieberman has a conflict of interest? Well, he’ll fit right in with this administration. I bet he can’t wait to get to work prosecuting video game companies.

posted by: wendy1 on May 18, 2017  9:05pm

Disgusting.  Should have left that old sticker on my jeep—-No War No Joe.

posted by: Brian McGrath on May 19, 2017  11:26am

Joe will do a good job.

posted by: thecove on May 22, 2017  2:13pm

Terrorism, cybercrime, drug trafficking, human trafficking. Joe simply doesn’t have the experience to lead today’s modern FBI.  Good guy who has served his constituents well over the years though.