Leahy: Leadership, Stability, Continuity Needed At The FBI

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, July 27, 2011) – The U.S. Senate later today will vote on the President’s nomination of Robert S. Mueller, III, to be the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for up to two additional years.  Mueller’s 10-year term is set to expire on August 2.  In May, President Obama requested that Congress enact legislation to provide for a one-time extension of Mueller’s service.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced bipartisan legislation in May to respond to the President’s request.  The Judiciary Committee approved the legislation in early June, and five weeks later, on July 21, the Senate approved the bill by a voice vote.  The House of Representatives took final action on the legislation on July 25, and President Obama signed the bill into law on Tuesday. 

The Senate is expected to vote on Mueller’s nomination at 4:00 p.m. today.  Leahy spoke on the Senate floor today in support of the nomination.

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),

Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,

On The Renomination Of FBI Director Robert Mueller

July 27, 2011

As Prepared for Delivery

Today the Senate will consider the President’s nomination of Robert Mueller to continue serving as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  This is consistent with the President’s May 12, 2011, request that Congress pass legislation to enable Director Mueller to continue serving, in light of the leadership transitions at several key national security agencies.  With the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaching, and a continued threat from al Qaeda, we find ourselves facing unique circumstances.  We need leadership, stability, and continuity at the FBI as the President makes necessary shifts to his national security team.

In response to the President’s request, I immediately went to work with a bipartisan group of Senators to draft and introduce a bill to create a one-time exception to the statute limiting the term of the FBI Director to 10 years.  I worked in a bipartisan manner to hold a hearing and report this legislation to the full Senate on June 16, 2011.  It then took a month to get consent to consider the bill.  When we did, the Senate was able to pass a version of it on July 21, and the House of Representatives followed suit on July 25.  The President signed it into law yesterday.

The President’s nomination of Director Mueller shows that there was never any effort to impose a legislative appointment upon the President.  The request to extend Director Mueller’s term originated with the President, not Congress.  Nor was it Director Mueller’s idea.  The President has prevailed on Director Mueller for the good of the country, and the Muellers are altering their plans to answer the call. 

I did insist that we include a unanimous consent agreement to expedite consideration of this nomination when others insisted that we adopt a form of statute that would require Director Mueller’s renomination.  The Majority Leader has consent to take up the nomination, and after the use of yielding back of two hours, the Senate will vote on the nomination.  I did that to prevent a recurrence of the delays and obstruction that have been used to complicate consideration of so many of this President’s nominations, including the Deputy Attorney General, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security and so many others.   There was even a hold on the legislation making this nomination possible.  The Senate can now vote to reconfirm Director Mueller to a new, two-year term, before the August 2 deadline, and avoid any lapse in leadership at the FBI.

Since taking over as FBI Director just days before the attacks of September 11, 2001, Director Mueller has overseen and guided the Bureau through a major transformation and evolution.  Although the transformation has not been without problems, Director Mueller has consistently displayed professionalism and focus in increasing the FBI’s national security and counterterrorism efforts, while still carrying out the Bureau’s essential law enforcement responsibilities.  I applaud Director Mueller’s commitment to ensuring that the FBI adheres to the values and freedoms that Americans hold dear, while vigorously pursuing important law enforcement and national security objectives.

As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I intend to continue to conduct vigorous oversight of the FBI and look forward to working with Director Mueller on these important issues.  Oversight is one of Congress’s most important responsibilities.  For example, on June 17, 2011, I wrote a letter with Ranking Member Grassley to Director Mueller about the proposed changes in the FBI’s revised edition of the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide.  I remain committed to ensuring that this revised Guide provides the FBI with the latitude it needs to carry out its duties, while not infringing upon the civil liberties of Americans, and ensuring that the Judiciary Committee and public are kept informed of its implementation.  

I will continue to monitor the implementation of the USA PATRIOT Act, which Congress extended this past May.  At the start of this Congress, I introduced legislation that would have extended the three expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, while improving oversight, promoting transparency, and expanding privacy and civil liberties safeguards in current law.  Unfortunately, despite the fact that the legislation was reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee, it was never allowed to receive an up-or-down vote during the debate to extend the expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act earlier this year.  Nonetheless, I will work with Director Mueller, the Department of Justice, and all Senators to ensure oversight of USA PATRIOT Act authorities, and to address and evaluate the FISA Amendments Act, which is due to sunset next year.

With Director Mueller’s original term set to expire next week, it is imperative that the Senate confirm his renomination to a two-year term until September 4, 2013, to provide continued stability on the President’s national security team.  Given the ongoing threats to our Nation, I appreciate Director Mueller’s willingness to continue his service.  Director Mueller has dedicated his life to public service, and we are grateful to him and his family for their continued sacrifice. 

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