Comey Replacement

FILE - In this March 20, 2017, file photo, House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., questions then-FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers as they testify on Capitol Hill in Washington. With James Comey ousted as FBI director, President Donald Trump will have an opportunity to select a replacement for a new 10-year term. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy is one of 11 candidates under consideration by the White House to become the next director of the FBI.

A White House source confirmed the information to The Post and Courier on Friday evening, though Gowdy was not among the four candidates that The Washington Post reported later Friday were going to be interviewed for the job.

Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010, would be a popular choice among Republicans to replace James Comey, who President Donald Trump fired on Tuesday evening.

A former federal prosecutor and 7th Circuit solicitor, Gowdy has a reputation as a tough and sharp questioner of witnesses, whether it's in a courtroom or at a congressional committee hearing. 

Among the GOP base he is considered a hero for his leadership of the now-disbanded panel to investigate the Sept. 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which led to the discovery of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server.

Democrats would revolt over a Gowdy appointment at the FBI. They believe the Benghazi committee was ultimately a partisan witch hunt designed to take down the Democratic presidential nominee. It would also be hard to convince them that Gowdy could be apolitical at the FBI when he's spent the past six and a half years in elected office taking partisan votes.

But Gowdy would have some credibility as a member of the House Intelligence Committee, which is playing a role in Capitol Hill's bipartisan investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether there was collusion from the Trump campaign.

Gowdy also has never met or spoken with Trump, which would fit some criteria for independence that members on both sides of the aisle say is desperately needed at the FBI, especially now that Comey's firing raises questions about the future of the Russia investigation.

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Even if Gowdy repels all Senate Democrats, however, he only needs 51 Republican votes to be confirmed. There are 52 Republicans in the Senate. 

Confirmation of Gowdy's candidacy comes as his name has already been floated in media reports. U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, told Fox News on Wednesday he and other members of Congress had called the White House directly to advocate for Gowdy for the job, and that the White House divulged to Ratcliffe that Gowdy was under consideration.

Gowdy's closest friend in Congress, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who has been pushing for Gowdy to be nominated for a federal judgeship for years, told The Post and Courier earlier in the week he hoped reports were true.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee which would handle the first round of confirmation hearings for FBI director, said Gowdy would be an "outstanding pick."

Gowdy's office declined to comment.

Emma Dumain is The Post and Courier's Washington correspondent. Reach her at 843-834-0419 and follow her @emma_dumain.