WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. John Cornyn is on the short list to succeed James Comey as FBI director, according to a White House official.
Cornyn is one of about 11 contenders for the post, according to Fox News.
He has strong relationships with members of his conference and would likely sail through confirmation. Prior to his election to the Senate in 2002, Cornyn served as Texas attorney general, a Texas Supreme Court justice and a local judge.
In the immediate aftermath of Comey’s firing, Cornyn did not take the opportunity to lobby for the position.
“I’m happy serving my state and my country,” he told reporters off the Senate floor Wednesday.
On Friday, after the news of his appearance on Trump’s list surfaced, he echoed those remarks.
“I have the distinct privilege of serving 28 million Texans in the United States Senate, and that is where my focus remains,” he said in a statement.
Such an appointment would put Cornyn in one of the most contentious positions in the U.S. government. President Donald Trump, who would be making that appointment, spent Friday morning declaring political war on Comey via Twitter.
Cornyn would also take over the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
Should Cornyn be offered and accept the post, it would be an enormous blow to the Texas’ clout on Capitol Hill. He is the second-ranking Republican in the Senate. But as Politico noted last week, his current leadership position comes with term limits, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shows no signs of leaving his post in the near future.
A Senate vacancy could make for dramatic change in the state’s political pecking order.
Gov. Greg Abbott would be tasked with a short-term appointment, but several months later the state would hold a special election to finish the duration of the term, which ends in 2021.
When Lloyd Bentsen resigned from the U.S. Senate to become secretary of the U.S. Treasury in 1993, Gov. Ann Richards appointed former U.S. Rep. Bob Krueger, a Democrat, to hold the post until a special election could be held. That was a noisy affair with two dozen candidates – including a couple of sitting members of Congress at the time – that ended with Texas Treasurer Kay Bailey Hutchison beating Krueger in the special election runoff. She ran successfully for a full term the next year and remained in the U.S. Senate until the end of 2012.
Given the long list of FBI contenders, the chance of a Texas senate vacancy is still fairly slim.
But that did nothing to tamp down the state’s political class from gaming out scenarios. Would Abbott appoint Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick? Or would he use the opportunity to increase diversity in the statewide ranks, by appointing a woman or minority?
One thing Abbott cannot do is appoint himself, which is a precedent based in common law, not statute.
Read related coverage:
- The Tribune asked all 38 members of the Texas congressional delegation whether Congress is appropriately overseeing investigations into relationships between Russia and members of the Trump team.
- Cornyn and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz both backed Trump’s decision to fire Comey.