As President Barack Obama doubles down on his gun control agenda, he is expected to nominate a former Bush administration official who pioneered a federal gun control program.
Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey, a University of Chicago Law School alumnus, is credited with the creation of Richmond, Virginia’s Project Exile — a “highly regarded gun control program,” according to a 2001 Los Angeles Times piece.
The program — which even received the support of both the NRA and the Brady Campaign — was a partnership among federal, state and local law enforcement that stiffened penalties for gun-related offenses.
Offenders faced a mandatory minimum of five years in federal prison if convicted.
The program was established in Richmond in 1997 when Comey headed the Richmond division of the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District Office of Virginia as as Managing Assistant U.S. Attorney.
Project Exile was hailed as a success in aiding in the reduction of gun-related violence in Richmond, and was seen as a model for other anti-gun initiatives across the country.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday evening that Comey recieved the nod as a bipartisan olive branch over Obama’s chief counterterrorism advisor Lisa Monaco.
Officials speaking to the Post on condition of anonymity did not say when the president’s announcement was to be expected.
Comey would replace FBI Director Robert Mueller, whose ten-year tenure as head of the bureau expired on September 4, 2011 but was renewed.
The president, who was in Chicago Wednesday evening speaking at a Democratic congressional fundraiser, promoted his desire for the passage of new gun control laws, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune.
The speech was part of a larger national tour promoting his gun control agenda following a defeat in the Senate last month over the further expansion of federal gun regulations.
With a DOJ also embroiled in controversy over its spying on American journalists, Comey’s nomination would also serve as political cover for the administration given his role in resisting the NSA’s domestic surveillance program under the Bush administration.
During his tenure with the Bush administration, then-Deputy Attorney General Comey — along with Mueller — threatened to resign if President Bush did not agree to reform the program that had been established in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. During a dramatic 2004 standoff between a bedridden Attorney General John Ashcroft and White House officials Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card, it was Comey who came to Ashcroft’s side to support his refusal to renew the surveillance program.
Comey played a part in establishing the reforms made to the program, according to a 2006 piece by The New York Times.
After leaving the Justice Department, Comey served as General Counsel and Senior Vice President at Lockheed Martin, and later as General Counsel at Bridgewater Associates, LLP. He currently sits on the board of HSBC Holdings plc.
Comey was also considered to be on the adminstration’s short list to replace now-former Associate Supreme Court Justice David Souter, according to a 2009 Politico report.
According to Politico, Comey’s previous position in the Bush administration was viewed negatively by the Obama administration’s political allies, despite his stance on domestic surveillance.
Grae Stafford contributed to this report.