The US Senate has overwhelmingly confirmed James Comey as FBI director, elevating the one-time Justice Department official who defied efforts by George Bush’s White House to renew a warrantless eavesdropping programme.
Mr Comey was approved 93-1 after one of the Senate’s leading conservatives abruptly ended delaying tactics that had blocked a vote on the nomination.
“In the face of ever-changing threats, he has repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to defending America’s security and ideals alike,” President Obama said in a written statement about Mr Comey.
Comey gained attention during a brief stint as acting attorney general in 2004, when he and attorney general John Ashcroft, who was ill, rejected an effort by White House chief of staff Andrew Card and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales to renew a programme that allowed eavesdropping without court warrants of domestic phone calls and emails.
“James Comey proved that his reputation for unwavering integrity and professionalism is well-deserved,” Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy said during last night’s brief debate.
Senator Rand Paul, mentioned as a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate, had been thwarting the vote over his concerns about the FBI’s domestic use of drones.
But minutes before a vote that seemed likely to force an end to his delays, Mr Paul announced he would allow a vote on Mr Comey, saying he had received a letter from the FBI that answered his questions about drones. Mr Paul was the only No vote.
With the Obama administration under fire following recent revelations about the National Security Agency’s collection of records of domestic telephone calls and online communications, that 2004 episode and Mr Comey’s credentials of serving under a Republican president helped make him an attractive candidate for the top FBI job.