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AP Source: Garland happy on bench, no interest in FBI job

FILE - In this April 21, 2016 file photo, Judge Merrick Garland is seen at the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse in Washington, Thursday, April 21, 2016. A longtime friend of Garland tells The Associated Press that Garland is happy in his job and has no interest in leaving the judiciary to head the FBI. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A longtime friend of Judge Merrick Garland tells The Associated Press that Garland is happy in his job and has no interest in leaving the judiciary to head the FBI.

The comment came Tuesday after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he recommended that President Donald Trump nominate the federal appeals court judge for the post.

The friend spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Garland’s name began to surface as a possible replacement last week when GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah suggested it on Twitter. Lee also raised the idea directly with White House staff, according to an aide. McConnell’s comments on his recommendation to the president came during an appearance Tuesday morning on Bloomberg Business.

The search is underway for a new head of the FBI after Trump fired Director James Comey a week ago.

President Barack Obama nominated Garland to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, but McConnell declined to even hold a hearing. Senate Republicans insisted at the time that the next president should replace Scalia. The high court vacancy was filled last month by Neil Gorsuch.

If Garland left his lifetime appointment to the bench, it would create a vacancy on the critical U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which Trump could then fill.

The administration has interviewed at least eight candidates to replace Comey, of more than a dozen being considered. Trump has said a decision could come before he leaves Friday for a trip to the Mideast and Europe. The list includes current and former FBI and Justice Department leaders, federal judges and Republicans who have served in Congress.

One of those candidates, Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, said Tuesday he was not lobbying for the job. Cornyn told the AP he has not had any further conversations about it with the administration since Saturday.

FBI directors have predominantly been drawn from the ranks of prosecutors and judges. Comey, for instance, was a former United States Attorney in Manhattan before being appointed deputy attorney general by George W. Bush. His predecessor, Robert Mueller, was a U.S. attorney in San Francisco.

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Associated Press writer Alan Fram contributed to this report.

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