Leahy, Grassley, Feinstein, Chambliss Introduce Bill To Extend Director Mueller’s Term

WASHINGTON (Thursday, May 26, 2011) – The top Democrats and Republicans of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence introduced legislation Thursday to address President Obama’s request to extend the term of FBI Director Robert Mueller for two years.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) introduced a bill to provide a one-time extension of Mueller’s service.

Earlier this month, President Obama requested that Congress enact a one-time extension of Mueller’s term, which is limited to 10 years by statute.  Mueller assumed the post of FBI Director just one week before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; his term is set to expire September 3.

“Bob Mueller has served tirelessly and selflessly for 10 years, and is undoubtedly ready to begin the next phase of his life,” said Leahy.  “But he has characteristically answered duty’s call and indicated his willingness to continue his service.  We should fulfill our duty, as well, and join together without delay to secure the continuity and stability that is demanded at this time, and that is needed to keep our country safe.”  

“The ten-year term for an FBI director is good for the agency and our country.  It was designed to insulate the FBI Director from the political process and ensure that no one Director amass too much power.  It has worked for thirty-five years.  But, we live in extraordinary times.  Given the complex and uncertain time we live in, the good work of Director Mueller following September 11, and a heightened alert to terrorist attack following the death of Osama Bin Laden, this one-time statutory exemption that will extend the term of FBI Director Mueller’s term by two years is the right decision.  I do this with trepidation, though, because of the constitutional and precedential concerns associated with this action,” Grassley said.  “I look forward to a hearing in the Judiciary Committee so we can address those concerns.”

“During the last decade, Robert Mueller has provided steady leadership and stability at the FBI.  He has worked to transform the culture of the Bureau into an agency that can better identify and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States,” said Feinstein.  “Under his leadership, the FBI has played an essential role in more than 20 significant counterterrorism operations, while infiltrating and arresting individuals charged with planning attacks against our country. Extending Director Mueller’s term at the FBI for an additional two years will ensure the transition at the FBI continues and will provide important stability to the President’s national security team during this sensitive and challenging time.”

“In addition to leading our crime-fighting efforts inside the United States, the FBI plays a critical national security role,” said Chambliss.  “Director Mueller has done an outstanding job ensuring the American people remain safe from domestic attacks.  In light of Osama bin Laden’s death, the approaching 9/11 anniversary, and the leadership transitions occurring at the Pentagon and the CIA, I believe granting a one-time, two-year extension of Director Mueller’s term is the right thing to do.”

The legislation will be referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.  The text of the legislation is available online.

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,

In Support Of The President’s Request
To Extend The Service Of FBI Director Robert Mueller

May 26, 2010

Earlier this month, the President requested that Congress provide a limited exception to the statutory limit on the service of the FBI Director in order to allow Robert Mueller to continue his service for up to two additional years, until September 2013.  I spoke with the President about his request, and understand his desire for continuity and stability in our national security leadership team at a time of great challenge and heightened threat concerns. 

On May 12, the President explained in a statement:  “Given the ongoing threats facing the United States, as well as the leadership transitions at other agencies like the Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency, I believe continuity and stability at the FBI is critical at this time.”  It is for that reason, along with his confidence in Director Mueller, that the President has made this request of us.   The President has asked us “to join together in extending that leadership for the sake of our nation’s safety and security.”

Since the attack on September 11, 2001, I have spoken often of the need for us all to join together.  When I spoke to the Senate about the successful operation against Osama bin Laden, I urged all Americans to support our President in his continuing efforts to protect our Nation and keep Americans safe.  I reiterated my hope that Americans would stand shoulder-to-shoulder, as we did in the weeks and months immediately following the September 11 attacks, unified in our resolve to keep our Nation secure.  And I urged Congress to join together for the good of the country and all Americans. This is one of those times that we must join together. 

We face a time of heightened threats, particularly when experts are so concerned about possible reprisal attacks by al Qaeda.  Indeed, Most Americans share a concern that al Qaeda will try to strike back.  So now is not a time for obstruction or delay in considering the President’s request to maintain continuity and stability in his national security team. 

We have an opportunity now to set aside partisanship and come together to work with our President to keep America safe.  While the threat from al Qaeda continues, and as the President makes necessary shifts in his national security team, I appreciate why President Obama has proposed that we continue the service of President Bush’s appointee to the important leadership position of Director of the FBI.  I appreciate Director Mueller’s willingness to continue in service to the Nation.  This was not Bob Mueller’s idea or request.  This is the President’s request and, as a patriotic American, Director Mueller is willing to give another two years in service to a grateful Nation. 

The Bureau has seen significant transformation since September 11, 2001.  Director Mueller has handled this evolution with professionalism and focus.  The FBI plays a critical role in our efforts to protect national security.  Attorney General Holder said recently: “The United States faces ongoing threats from terrorist intent on attacking us both at home and abroad, and it is crucial that the FBI have sustained, strong leadership to confront that threat.”  He is right.

I was encouraged to see the reports that Senator McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, supports the President’s request. I appreciate the comments by Chairman Lamar Smith of the House Judiciary Committee, supporting the President’s decision, and stating his agreement that “it is important to maintain continuity for our intelligence community during this transition period.”

I am pleased that Senator Grassley, our ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has joined as a cosponsor of a bill to extend the service of Director Mueller, who Senator Grassley said has “proven his ability to run the FBI” in these “extraordinary times.”  I am also pleased that Senators Feinstein and Chambliss, the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, are joining as cosponsors of the bill.  We recognize the extraordinary circumstances confronting the President, and support his request for a short extension of Director Mueller’s service.  But we also all agree that this needs to be a one-time exception and this measure we join together to introduce today is intended to be a one-time exception and not a permanent extension. 

I chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee in the summer of 2001 when President Bush nominated Bob Mueller.  The President nominated him on July 18; the Judiciary Committee received his paperwork on July 24; and we held two days of hearings on July 30 and July 31.  The Judiciary Committee voted on his nomination on August 2 and the Senate confirmed him that same day.  It is already as long from the day that President Obama made his request for the short extension of his term of service as it took us in 2001 to hold hearings and for the Senate to confirm Bob Mueller to a 10-year term as FBI Director.  We must not delay action any longer.

Bob Mueller served for three years in the United States Marine Corps; led a rifle platoon in Vietnam; and earned a Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals, the Purple Heart, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.  This is a man who served as the United States Attorney in both Massachusetts and Northern California, as the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division at the Justice Department, and the acting Deputy Attorney General at the beginning of the George W. Bush administration.  This is a man who left a lucrative position in private practice to return to law enforcement after he had served in higher positions, by joining the U.S. Attorney’s office in the District of Columbia as a line prosecutor in the homicide section. 

The President could have nominated the next director of the FBI, someone who could serve for the next 10 years, until 2021. That is someone who would serve through the presidential elections in 2012, 2016 and 2020, and into the period long after his own presidency.  Instead, he has chosen to ask Congress to extend the term of service of a proven leader for a brief period, given the extenuating circumstances facing our country. 

I emphasize that this is not Bob Mueller’s request, it is the President’s.  Bob Mueller has served tirelessly and selflessly for 10 years, and is undoubtedly ready to begin the next phase of his life.  But Bob has characteristically answered duty’s call and indicated his willingness to continue his service.  We should fulfill our duty, as well, and join together without delay to secure the continuity and stability that is demanded at this time, and that is needed to keep our country safe.  It is time for us to join together and act on the President’s request.  

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