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Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 5/11/17. Congressman Chuck Fleischmann speaks to CTFP reporters during an editorial board meeting at the newspaper on Thursday, May 11, 2017.
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Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 5/11/17. Congressman Chuck Fleischmann speaks to CTFP reporters during an editorial board meeting at the newspaper on Thursday, May 11, 2017.
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U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann says whoever President Donald Trump chooses as the next FBI director needs to be "independent, competent," and "someone that the vast majority of Americans would be able to support."

"I want them to pick the best person, man or woman, who will be able to avoid being a firebrand politically like, 'Oh, my gosh, they are so partisan that they can't get there.'"

And responding to concerns Trump might choose someone who would soft-pedal or slow-walk ongoing investigations into the administration's ties to Russia, Fleischmann said, "I think that would be the first question [senators voting on confirmation] would ask."

Fleischmann spoke Thursday to Times Free Press reporters and editors. The House is in recess.

He said he hopes the controversy over Trump's abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey doesn't impede action on other "looming issues" such as health care, tax and regulatory reform and infrastructure.

And he thinks both parties are guilty of making partisan hay from the issue.

"Sometimes both sides Republican and Democrat, will land on an issue where it is either politically expedient or it's like, 'Well, we're going to go to our corner, and in our unit the world is round or flat depending on where that's going to fall.'"

Fleischmann said he didn't know Comey and he would have to "be deferential to those who are in a position to judge him."

He said the former director "seemed to be in the wrong place in history at the wrong time, consistently."

"He was stuck with some very difficult decisions, made those decisions, and obviously this administration felt that it was time for him to go."

Asked about names that have been floated to replace Comey, Fleischmann conceded that South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, who chaired the Benghazi hearings and who Fleischmann called a "dear friend," would nonetheless likely be perceived as too partisan for the job. He wants to "put all the names on the table and vet them thoroughly."

He said former Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, an ex-FBI agent and Intelligence Committee chairman, could be a good candidate. And he said he's heard George W. Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, mentioned.

"She has tremendous respect on both sides of the aisle," Fleischmann said.

Mainly, he said, "We need someone put in there who will have credibility. And by credibility, I mean there is a certain independence about them so we can avoid the bipartisan polarization we're afraid could develop very quickly.

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at jwalton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416.

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