Associated Retired Aviation Professionals

Bush Sticking With Freeh at FBI

January 4, 2001

By RON FOURNIER, AP Political Writer 

   WASHINGTON (AP) - Sticking with Clinton appointees, President-elect Bush wants FBI Director Louis Freeh to finish the last two years of his term and sought a brief extension for CIA Director George Tenet, advisers said Thursday. 

   His Cabinet complete, Bush broadened his focus Thursday to sub-Cabinet and senior White House positions by nominating campaign manager Joe Allbaugh to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

   In the same Texas ceremony, campaign strategist Karl Rove was appointed Bush's senior adviser and given control over the offices of political affairs, public liaison and strategic initiatives - an unusually broad portfolio. 

   Allbaugh, 48, and Rove, 50, combined with spokeswoman Karen Hughes to form Bush's loyal "Iron Triangle" that guided him to the presidency. Hughes, 44, was named presidential counselor shortly after the election. 

   "The triangle has been completed," Bush said. 

   Freeh is in the eighth year of a 10-year term given to him by President Clinton, but the two have often clashed; Bush advisers have told Freeh they want him to stay. The CIA director, though not a permanent fixture in the Cabinet, is nonetheless an important part of a president's foreign policy team. 

   A friend who has spoken to Tenet in the last few days cast doubt on the idea of his joining the Bush administration. 

   Several Democrats and Republicans have urged Bush to retain Tenet in an effort to take the spy agency out of the political cycle. Bush's father, former President Bush, once headed the CIA and has called for a less-political approach. 

   The president-elect has already dipped into Clinton's administration, nominating Commerce Secretary Norman Mineta to be his transportation secretary. 

   A senior Bush adviser said the president-elect planned to request that Tenet stay aboard in the short term while the incoming national security team assesses America's foreign policy needs and the CIA's role. Tenet would not be auditioning for a long-term appointment but rather would be a placeholder, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

   The situation appeared to be in motion Thursday. 

   A Tenet friend said Bush had not contacted the CIA director, but a senior Republican said the call was imminent to gauge his interest in staying aboard. 

   The friend said Tenet was interested early on in continuing in the job but has lost interest given that so much time has passed without a job offer. And yet a CIA official said Thursday Tenet was open to the notion. 

   The official and the friend spoke on condition of anonymity. 

   Republican Rep. Porter Goss, a former CIA agent and current chairman of the House Select Intelligence Committee, said he advised Bush to take his time finding a new director for the spy agency. He said the Clinton administration lacked national security focus, which stopped the CIA from defining its capability - and Tenet would be good in covering until that focus is found. 

   "Tenet provides some very good continuity, has done some very good things in the intelligence community," said Goss, himself a prospect for the CIA job. 

   At the FBI, Freeh, who clashed frequently with Clinton, has two years remaining on a 10-year term and was asked to remain on the job under Bush. 

   "We don't expect people to leave until their terms expire," spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "He's staying." 

   Freeh already had sent FBI employees a pre-Christmas message that made his intentions clear. 

   "As I have said before, I was appointed to a 10-year term and have no plans at this time to leave the FBI," Freeh said in that electronic message. 

   At her weekly news conference Thursday, Attorney General Janet Reno said she'd heard the Bush team had asked Freeh to stay but had not heard any formal word on his response. 

   "I think the world of Louis Freeh," Reno added. "He and I have discussions and disagreements and arguments" - a reference to Freeh's repeated recommendation, which she rejected, that an independent counsel take over the investigation of Clinton's fund raising. 

   "I will be grateful to him for his candor," Reno said. "There are people that sometimes sugarcoat disagreements.  Louis Freeh is a person I could count on to tell me what he thought. ... America's fortunate when they have people like that." 

   Freeh openly demonstrated his disdain for Clinton - for instance, inviting ex-President Bush rather than Clinton to speak at the bureau's anniversary celebration and giving an award to a prosecutor who recommended an independent counsel for campaign finance. 

   As for Bush's inner circle, Hughes stood behind the cameras in Austin on Thursday as she, Bush, Allbaugh and Rove struggled to contain their emotions. 

   "He is one of the reasons I was elected governor and one of the reasons I was elected president," Bush said of Rove. "He will bring good judgment, good humor and good advice to the White House." 

   He called Allbaugh a "loyal and strong friend." 

   If confirmed by the Senate, Allbaugh will replace James Lee Witt, a close ally of Clinton credited with reviving the agency. 

   FEMA is best known as the agency that provides emergency assistance after floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes. It also administers the National Flood Insurance Program and Project Impact, an effort to develop storm and flood-resistant communities. 

 Associated Press reporters Ron Kampeas and Michael J. Sniffen contributed to this report.

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