WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee today wrapped up hearings into the nomination of Robert Mueller to be FBI Director, after just two days.
Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the committee will vote on Mueller's nomination Thursday, so he could be confirmed by the full Senate before Congress leaves for August recess this weekend.
There was no apparent opposition to Mueller's nomination, and he was praised by nearly every member of the committee. Mueller, a Republican U.S. Attorney from San Francisco, was even introduced by California's two Democratic senators — Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. "He doesn't have a political bone in his body, that I can tell," Boxer said.
Repeating some of his testimony from Monday, Mueller outlined the steps he would take to improve the FBI in the wake of highly publicized blunders, including its belated handling of documents in the Timothy McVeigh case, the Robert Hanssen espionage case and the investigation of Wen Ho Lee.
Mueller said he was willing to make quick personnel changes at the FBI in order to match up the people with the right jobs. He also said the FBI's computer systems and technology needed an overhaul to include the use of document imaging, so that relevant documents can be quickly retrieved from FBI computer databases. Mueller also said he would fire any FBI employee who lies to his superiors or Congress.
"Anybody who lies deserves the strongest sanction, up to and including dismissal from the FBI," Mueller said.
Mueller addressed concerns raised by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., about the FBI Director's duty to turn over relevant information to congressional oversight committees.
Before the hearing, Mueller met privately with Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., about the FBI Director's duty to turn over relevant information to congressional oversight committees. He told the senator at the public hearing that, under some circumstances, he could see taking information directly to the Senate Judiciary Committee — even if the Attorney General did not agree.
He also said he would look at how the FBI uses its computer wiretapping system — formerly known as Carnivore, but now called DCS-1000 — and weigh the privacy concerns raised by its critics.
Mueller also said he'd look into some senator's concerns about media leaks in the criminal investigation of Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J. "Generally speaking, I abhor leaks," Mueller said.
He also said there are times when local law enforcement agencies should get more credit for investigations they conducted with the FBI.
The notoriously press-shy Mueller, who said he thinks he's only had two news conferences as U.S. Attorney in San Francisco, said that he was "not a great one for press conferences." However, he told reporters at the end of the hearing that he would like to put together "informal" gatherings with reporters.