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Former Sen. Joe Lieberman told MSNBC Thursday that appointing him head of the FBI would have looked “terrible” after President Donald Trump retained an attorney from the law firm where Lieberman works to represent him in the Russia investigation.
“With everything swirling in Washington, you can’t have a director of the FBI coming from the same law firm as the president’s private lawyer. It looks terrible,” Lieberman said in an interview with MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace.
The former Connecticut senator and one-time Democratic vice presidential nominee sent the White House a letter Wednesday withdrawing his name from the search to replace former FBI Director James Comey.
"With your selection of Marc Kasowitz to represent you in the various investigations that have begun, I do believe it would be best to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest, given my role as a senior counsel in the law firm of which Marc is the senior partner," Lieberman wrote Trump in the letter.
Lieberman also said the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the Department of Justice’s Russia investigation reassured him the integrity of the agency would remain intact amid the recent turmoil.
Trump had said last week that Lieberman was a leading candidate to head the bureau, news that did not go over well with Lieberman’s former colleagues on Capitol Hill.
Lieberman, who unsuccessfully ran as Al Gore's running mate in 2000 and waged his own presidential bid four years later, lost his Democratic Senate primary race in Connecticut in 2006. He went on to win re-election as an independent, and in 2008 endorsed Republican Sen. John McCain for president.
While Republicans were largely approving of him becoming the next head of the FBI, Democrats said they would like to see a non-politician with a law enforcement background take the job.
“I was disappointed but you know, I guess when I step back from it I wasn’t surprised because everything is so partisan in Washington,” Lieberman said. “There’s still a group, probably in the far left of the Democratic party, who still doesn’t forgive me.”