Lieberman should not be FBI Director

Get ready for Trump to nominate Lieberman FBI director. And get ready to fight it. Trump would pick Lieberman only because he used to be a Democratic Senator and he would be useful political cover. Lieberman offers Trump a facade of bipartisanship, but it is a poorly kept secret that he resents the Democratic Party leadership for turning against him in 2004. There were many stories between 2004 and 2010 that he was bitter about the Clintons and Obama. He openly flirted with endorsing Trump over the summer, before eventually endorsing Clinton. I didn’t find the flirtations to be a sign of nonpartisanship. Trump’s nomination of Lieberman would be gaming the Senate for rushed confirmation of old colleague, to manipulate Lieberman’s old neo-con Senate buddies McCain and Graham, and to avoid tough questions.

Moreover, Lieberman also doesn’t have enough relevant experience for the FBI. He served as Connecticut state attorney general in the 1980s, and that office plays a law enforcement role, but it is not like FBI today. In particular at this moment, having FBI/DOJ experience in this moment is vital.

Lieberman shares Trump’s Islamophobia. He has surrendered old principles for a post 9/11 right-wing neo-Con agenda. In 2015, Lieberman led a campaign against the Obama administration’s Iran deal for United Against Nuclear Iran. My view is that the opposition to the Iran deal was politicized/partisan. I have written before on the blog about the deal being complicated but necessary because of Russia and China undermining the sanctions no matter what we wanted. But even if one agrees with the opposition to the deal, one should recognize how his leadership of the opposition compromises his role for what must be a non-political position at the FBI in the middle of a politicized crisis.

But what is also disqualifying is his recent breach of professional ethics of disclosure. This year, Lieberman introduced Betsy DeVos as Trump’s nominee in Senate hearings, but he failed to disclose his conflict of interest because of his law firm’s close representation of Trump’s casinos and his campaign. Trump casinos have been penalized repeatedly for laundering money and are suspected of being the origin of Trump’s Russia ties. Lieberman’s firm represented Trump during campaign, and threatened legal action against the New York Times for publishing his taxes.  You can read more here.

More on conflicts here.

I hope the rumors are wrong, and I hope that Trump will not nominate Lieberman. If he does, it will be challenging to overcome the Senators’ self-aggrandizing pseudo-aristocratic view of their own Senatorial privilege of collegiality, almost literally an Old Boys Network. Lieberman is has lost that privilege with his lack of professionalism, and Trump must not be allowed to exploit it.



Author: Jed Shugerman

Legal historian at Fordham Law School, teaching Torts, Administrative Law, and Constitutional History. JD/PhD in History, Yale. Red Sox and Celtics fan, youth soccer coach. Author of "The People's Courts: Pursuing Judicial Independence in America" (2012) on the rise of judicial elections in America. I filed an amicus brief in the Emoluments litigation against Trump along with a great team of historians. I'm working on "The Rise of the Prosecutor Politicians," a history of prosecutors and political ambition (a cause of mass incarceration), and "The Imaginary Unitary Executive," on the myths and history of presidential power in America.

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