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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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May 30th, 2013
06:16 PM ET

Analysis: Tough questions for Obama's reported FBI pick would be 'grandstanding'

President Barack Obama's reported pick to head the FBI is Republican James Comey, a man who has had a career that at times reads like the exploits of a civil liberties superhero.

Comey was a high-ranking Justice Department official during former President George W. Bush's administration. He famously stood up to White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and Bush's chief of staff, Andrew Card in 2004, when they were reportedly trying to convince Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was lying in a hospital bed, to sign an extension on a controversial warrant-less domestic eavesdropping program.

"So I raced to the hospital room," Comey testified before a Senate Judiciary hearing in 207. "Mr. Ashcroft was lying down in the bed, the room was darkened .. it was only a matter of minutes that the door opened and in walked Mr. Gonzales, carrying an envelope, and Mr. Card. They came over and stood by the bed. Then Mr. Gonzales began to discuss why they were there – to seek his approval for a matter.

"And Attorney General Ashcroft then stunned me. He lifted his head off the pillow and in very strong terms expressed his view of the matter ... and as he laid back down, he said, 'but that doesn't matter, because I'm not the attorney general. There is the attorney general," and he pointed to me," said Comey in 2007.

Comey's record, civil libertarians point out, is much more mixed than that one anecdote might suggest. Comey has also prosecuted everybody from New York mob boss John Gambino, to Martha Stewart.

He is an interesting choice, but it remains to be seen if Comey can win Senate approval.

"Any tough questions ... are going to be grandstanding," Politico's chief White House correspondent Mike Allen said.

Allen and Susan Page, Washington bureau chief of USA today, dissected Comey's possible nomination on "The Lead's" political panel Thursday. Check out their discussion in the video above.

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