2:11 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. Please have a seat.
For more than a century, we have counted on the dedicated men and women of the FBI to keep us safe. In that time, the FBI has been led by six directors. And the second-longest-serving director of the FBI -- for the last 12 years -- has been an exemplary public servant, Bob Mueller.
By law, FBI directors only serve for 10 years. But back in 2011, when Bob’s term was up, I asked Congress to give him two more years. It wasn’t a request I made lightly, and I know Congress didn’t grant it lightly. But at a time when transitions were underway at the CIA and the Pentagon, and given the threats facing our nation, we felt it was critical to have Bob’s steady hand and strong leadership at the Bureau.
Twelve years is a long time to do anything -- and I guarantee you that Bob’s wife, Ann, agrees. So, in addition to asking Congress, I think we needed approval from Ann as well for those extra two years. Today, as Bob prepares to complete his service, this is a wonderful opportunity for all of us as a nation to say thank you to Bob and Ann, but also it gives me a chance to announce my choice to be the next director of the FBI, Jim Comey.
Every day, our FBI special agents, analysts and professional staff devote -- and often risk -- their lives keeping us secure, from the streets of our cities to the battlefield of Afghanistan. They embody the core principles of fidelity, bravery and integrity.
Bob Mueller has embodied those values through decades of public service -- and lived them every day as FBI director during an extraordinary period in our nation’s history. Bob, some of you will recall, was sworn in just days before 9/11, and Bob not only played a key role in our response to those attacks, he began one of the biggest transformations of the FBI in history to make sure that nothing like that ever happens again.
Like the Marine that he’s always been, Bob never took his eyes off his mission. Under his watch, the FBI joined forces with our intelligence, military and homeland security professionals to break up al Qaeda cells, disrupt their activities and thwart their plots. I’ll say it as clearly as I can -- countless Americans are alive today, and our country is more secure, because of the FBI’s outstanding work under the leadership of Bob Mueller.
All the while, Bob and the FBI have been tireless against a whole range of challenges, from preventing violent crime and reducing gang activity, including along our border, to cracking down on white-collar criminals.
Today there are many in the FBI who’ve never known the Bureau without Bob at the helm. And like us, they’ve admired his tenacity, but also his calm under pressure, his devotion to our security and his fidelity to the values that make us who we are. It’s a trademark -- a tribute to Bob’s trademark humility that most Americans probably wouldn’t recognize him on the street, but all of us are better because of his service.
And, Bob, I can't tell you how personally grateful I am to you and to Ann for your service. I know that everyone here joins me in saying that you will be remembered as one of the finest directors in the history of the FBI, and one of the most admired public servants of our time. And I have to say just personally not only has it been a pleasure to work with Bob, but I know very few people in public life who have shown more integrity more consistently under more pressure than Bob Mueller. (Applause.)
I think Bob will agree with me when I say that we have the perfect person to carry on this work in Jim Comey -- a man who stands very tall for justice and the rule of law. I was saying while we were taking pictures with his gorgeous family here that they are all what Michelle calls “normal height.” (Laughter.)
The grandson of a patrolman who worked his way up to lead the Yonkers Police Department, Jim has law enforcement in his blood. As a young prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, he helped bring down the Gambino crime family. As a federal prosecutor in Virginia, he led an aggressive effort to combat gun violence that reduced homicide rates and saved lives. He has been relentless, whether it’s standing up for consumers against corporate fraud or bringing terrorists to justice.
And as deputy attorney general, he helped lead the Justice Department with skill and wisdom -- meeting the threats we know about and staying perpetually prepared for the ones that can emerge suddenly. So Jim is exceptionally qualified to handle the full range of challenges faced by today’s FBI -- from traditional threats like violent and organized crime, to protecting civil rights and children from exploitation, to meeting transnational challenges like terrorism and cyber threats.
Just as important as Jim’s extraordinary experience is his character. He’s talked about how, as a young boy, he and his brother nearly lost their lives. They were at home and an intruder broke in and held them at gunpoint. So Jim understands, deeply, in his core, the anguish of victims of crime, what they go through, and he’s made it his life’s work to spare others that pain.
To know Jim Comey is also to know his fierce independence and his deep integrity. Like Bob, he’s that rarity in Washington sometimes -– he doesn’t care about politics, he only cares about getting the job done. At key moments, when it's mattered most, he joined Bob in standing up for what he believed was right. He was prepared to give up a job he loved rather than be part of something he felt was fundamentally wrong. As Jim has said, “We know that the rule of law sets this nation apart and is its foundation.”
Jim understands that in time of crisis, we aren’t judged solely by how many plots we disrupt or how many criminals we bring to justice -- we’re also judged by our commitment to the Constitution that we’ve sworn to defend, and to the values and civil liberties that we’ve pledged to protect. And as we’ve seen in recent days, this work of striking a balance between our security, but also making sure we are maintaining fidelity to those values that we cherish is a constant mission. That’s who we are.
And it is in large part because of my confidence not only in his experience and his skill but his integrity that I'm confident that Jim will be a leader who understands how to keep America safe and stay true to our founding ideals, no matter what the future may bring.
So, to Bob and Ann, I want to thank you again for your incredible service. I want to thank Jim, his wife Patrice, and their five children who are here today -- Maurene, Katherine, Brien, Claire and Abby -- for supporting Jim as he takes on this important role. I know he couldn’t do this without you. And he is extraordinarily proud of all of you, and I can see why.
This is a 10-year assignment. I make this nomination confident that long after I've left office, our nation’s security will be in good hands with public servants like Jim Comey. And so I urge, as usual, for the Senate to act promptly with hearings and to confirm our next FBI director right away.
I'd like now to give both of them a chance to say a few words, starting with Bob.
DIRECTOR MUELLER: Thank you, Mr. President. Let me start by thanking you, Mr. President, for those kind words. And I also want to express my gratitude to both President Bush and President Obama for giving me the honor and the privilege of serving as the FBI director during these last few years.
I particularly want to take the opportunity, though, to thank the men and women of the FBI. It's through their hard work, their dedication, their adaptability, that the FBI is better able to predict and to prevent terrorism and crime both here and abroad.
Of course, I want to thank my wife, Ann, my family, for their support and their patience over the last 12 years.
And, finally, I want to commend the President for the choice of Jim Comey as the next Director of the FBI.
I have had the opportunity to work with Jim for a number of years in the Department of Justice, and I have found him to be a man of honesty, dedication and integrity. His experience, his judgment, and his strong sense of duty will benefit not only the Bureau, but the country as a whole.
Again, Mr. President, thank you for this opportunity to serve. (Applause.)
MR. COMEY: Thank you, Mr. President, for this honor and this opportunity. I'm not sure I have the words to describe how excited I am to return to the Department of Justice, and especially to get to work again with the people of the FBI. They are men and women who have devoted their lives to serving and protecting others, and I simply can't wait to be their colleague again.
Nearly everything I am and have done in my adult life is due to the great good fortune of marrying up. (Laughter.) Thanks to the love and support, and occasional constructive criticism -- (laughter) -- of my beloved troops, of my amazing wife, Patrice, and Abby, Claire, Brien, Kate and Maurene, I am a much better person that I would have been without you. I love you guys. I have a debt. I cannot repay you, but thank you for that.
I must be out of my mind to be following Bob Mueller. (Laughter.) I don't know whether I can fill those shoes. But I know that however I do, I will be standing truly on the shoulders of a giant, someone who has made a remarkable difference in the life of this country. I can promise you, Mr. President and Mr. Director, that I will do my very best to honor and protect that legacy.
And I thank you again, Mr. President, for this chance to serve. Thank you. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Can we give Bob Mueller and Ann one more big round of applause? (Applause.)
2:22 P.M. EDT