A Project of the Council on American-Islamic Relations

2017: Facts on FBI Director Candidates

Following President Trump’s dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey, over a dozen candidates under consideration for the vacant position have been mentioned by current and former government and intelligence officials.

Many of these candidates are highly regarded civil servants who have dedicated their careers to protecting the nation and promoting equality. However, some of them have a history of anti-Muslim sentiment and problematic civil and human rights records.

Presented below is a brief record of this history for each candidate. Also included are their positions on the interconnected issues of refugee resettlement, domestic spying, torture of prisoners, rendition, federal watch-lists, and racial and religious profiling.

Kelly Ayotte – Former Sen. (R-NH)

Said Then-Presidential Candidate Trump’s Prejudicial Remarks Were “Offensive and Wrong”: After then-presidential candidate Trump made offensive remarks about a judge of Mexican heritage and stated that Muslim judges would be biased towards him, Ayotte said Trump’s comments were “offensive and wrong” and that “he should retract them.”

Opposed the Proposed “Muslim Ban”: Ayotte opposed any “religious based test for our immigration standards” when questioned about then-presidential candidate Trump’s proposed “Muslim Ban.”

Pushed Back Against Disparagement of Muslim Gold-Star Family: Ayotte pushed backed against then-presidential candidate Trump’s negative remarks toward Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son, Army Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed in Iraq in 2004. Ayotte said she was “appalled that Donald Trump would disparage them and that he had the gall to compare his own sacrifices to those of a Gold Star family.”

Co-Sponsored “No Fly, No Buy”: Ayotte co-sponsored the “Terrorist Firearms Prevention Act of 2016,” popularly referred to as the “No Fly, No Buy” Act. This and similar legislation introduced in the U.S. House aimed at banning gun sales to people on the federal terrorism watch list, including the No Fly List and the Selectee List. Republican legislators, backed by groups including CAIR, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Rifle Association, opposed “No Fly, No Buy” legislation because it violated the due process rights of those placed on the watch lists. The lists have high error rates and listed individuals are unable to adequately challenge their designation. The act would have applied constitutional limitations on the American Muslim community, which is disproportionately impacted by federal watch lists.

Chris Christie – New Jersey Governor

Spoke Out Against Religious Profiling: On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Christie addressed the issue of religiously profiling Muslims, saying that, “we can’t categorize people just by their religion,” and “I know from seven years as a federal prosecutor there’s a big difference between someone who is a peaceful, hardworking Muslim-American and someone who focuses on their religion.” Christie added, “I have a great relationship with the Muslim-American community in my state. I’ve worked with them, hosted them as our guests as governor.”

During a Republican presidential candidate debate, Christie said, “I have had the experience of working with them [Muslims] as Governor of New Jersey as well. We cannot mix the radical Islamic jihadists with everyday Muslim-Americans. New Jersey has the second largest Muslim-American population in America of any state. These are good law abiding, hardworking people. What they need is our cooperation and understanding. They do not need just broadsides against them because of their religious faith they practice.”

Pressed by Fox News Republican debate moderator Megyn Kelly to change his stance against profiling Muslims following the San Bernardino shootings, Christie said, “you can do it without profiling Megyn. You do it on the facts. What those folks knew was that these folks had weapons, they knew that they were talking about trying to take our country and attack it. That’s not profiling, that’s law enforcement. And that’s the difference between somebody who knows how to do this and somebody who’s never done it before.”

Directed State Agencies to Stop Helping Syrian Refugees: When Syrian Muslim refugees became a campaign issue, Christie directed state agencies to stop helping Syrian refugees in New Jersey. He was asked if he would make an exception for orphans under the age of five and he categorically refused, saying, “I don’t think orphans under five are being, you know, should be admitted into the United States at this point.”

Said Muslims “Are Americans Too”: During a campaign stop in December 2015, Christie was asked how he would deal with anti-Muslim stereotypes. In his answer he recounted visiting American Muslims after the 9/11 attacks and said, “[Muslims] are Americans too. And they love this country and they care deeply about its future.”

Alice Fisher – Assistant Attorney General for The Justice Department’s Criminal Division Under President George W. Bush

Likely to Have Discussed Effectiveness of Abusive Interrogation Techniques: According to the Associated Press, a Defense Department agent named Fisher in an email about allegedly abusive interrogations at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo. According to the email, she was among the Justice Department officials who attended weekly meetings with the Defense Department about “techniques and how they were not effective or producing [intelligence] that was reliable.”

Trey Gowdy – Congressman (R-SC)

Supported the “Muslim Ban.” In February 2017, Gowdy voiced general support for President Trump’s first “Muslim Ban” executive order, saying concerns that it violates the U.S. Constitutional could be “easily remedied.” His proposal was to add “different categories” for people barred from entering the U.S. due to the order, such as “non-immigrant visa holders vs. U.S. citizens vs. non-U.S. citizens.” Gowdy maintains that U.S. citizens are entitled to “the full panoply of constitutional rights and due process,” but that a foreign national entering the U.S. is not entitled to due process or Constitutional protections.

Put Refugee Program on Hold Due to Complaints of Increased “Risk of a Terrorist Attack”: In 2015 the State Department resettled several refugees in South Carolina. After locals complained about refugee resettlement placing them at a “greater risk of a terrorist attack,” Gowdy sent a letter to the State Department asking that the program be placed on hold.

Introduced Legislation To Criminalize All Undocumented Persons In The U.S.: In 2015, Gowdy introduced the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act, “SAFE Act,” which would criminalize all undocumented persons in the U.S. It would effectively bar millions of eligible individuals and families from applying for legalization. The act would also authorize states and local authorities to enforce federal immigration laws and would give Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers greater detention and deportation authorities.

Rudy Giuliani – Former Mayor of New York

Helped Craft the First “Muslim Ban” Executive Order: In a January interview with Fox News, Giuliani stated that Trump had asked him how to ban Muslim entry “legally.” Giuliani said in order to do that, “we focused on, instead of religion, danger.” Giuliani continued, “The areas of the world that create danger for us, which is a factual basis, not a religious basis. Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible.”

Established and Defended Nation’s Largest Domestic Spying Program Which Targeted American Muslims: As Mayor, Giuliani was responsible for approving the nation’s largest local law enforcement domestic spying program which spied on American Muslims. The Associated Press reported that the New York Police Department’s newly created Demographics Unit “monitored daily [Muslim] life,” used informants known as “mosque crawlers” in places of worship, and “placed informants or undercover officers in the Muslim Student Associations” across the city.

When the program was disbanded in 2014, Giuliani continued to defend it by saying that it was, “Totally ridiculous to interfere with the policy that [NYPD] Commissioner Kelly had in New York of allowing police officers to go into mosques in order to monitor what’s going on inside a mosque.” He added, “That’s a place we should be monitoring. We should be listening. It has been the source of any number of attacks.”

Approved and Defended Unconstitutional “Stop-and-Frisk” Program: As Mayor, Giuliani approved of the NYPD’s “stop-and-frisk program” which a federal judge in 2013 ruled had violated the constitutional rights of tens of thousands of the city’s residents. NYPD documents reveal that between 2004 and 2012 police had detained, questioned, and searched some 4.43 million people, and that 80 percent of those stopped were minorities. However, in September 2016, Giuliani continued to defend the practice by penning the op-ed “Trump is right about ‘stop and frisk.”

Felt “Encouraged” By Endorsement of Man Who Said Muslims Are “Worse Than the Nazis”: In November 2007, Giuliani said he was “encouraged” when he recieved the endorsement of Pat Robertson, chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). “His experience and advice will be a great asset to me and my campaign,” said Giuliani. Robertson has repeatedly defamed Islam and Muslims, including making statement such as Muslims are “worse than the Nazis.”

Added Vocal Anti-Muslim Activist as Foreign Policy Advisor During Presidential Candidate Campaign: In October 2007, during his presidential primary candidate campaign, Giuliani added Daniel Pipes, an active and prominent part of the U.S. Islamophobia Network, as a foreign policy advisor. Pipes has a history of Islamophobia and xenophobia and has disparaged the “different hygiene habits” of “brown-skinned peoples”. Pipes also supports racial and religious profiling of Muslims. In 2004 Pipes also wrote that he “support(s) the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II.”

Defended Comment That America Has “Too Many Mosques”: In September 2007, as a Republican Party presidential primary candidate, Giuliani defended his top homeland security advisor Congressman Peter King’s comments that America has “too many mosques.” He said “‘I knew exactly what he meant,” referring to the canard that violence is preached in U.S. mosques. He added “I know that from my own investigations of Islamic terrorism.”

Ray Kelly – Former NYPD Commissioner

Propagated Discriminatory Racial and Religious Profiling: As NYPD Commissioner, Kelly was an adamant propagator of discriminatory law enforcement profiling of the city’s minority population. As mentioned above, Kelly oversaw the NYPD’s Demographics Unit, which engaged in unconstitutional surveillance of various Muslim community areas, civic groups and student associations, even infiltrating houses of worship and student community trips and events.

Endorsed “Extreme Vetting” of Muslim Immigrants: In December 2016, Kelly voiced support for President Trump’s “extreme vetting” of Muslim immigrants and refugees saying “We need deeper vetting. It’s absolutely necessary.”

Oversaw Unconstitutional “Stop-and-Frisk” Program: Kelly oversaw the NYPD’s “stop and frisk” program, which involved stopping, questioning and frisking people in primarily African-American and Latino neighbourhoods. In 2013, a federal judge found that the police tactic was unconstitutional, calling it “a policy of indirect racial profiling.”

Joseph “Joe” Lieberman – Former U.S. Senator (I-CT)

Associated with Anti-Muslim Conspiracy Theorists Frank Gaffney and Daniel Pipes: Lieberman served as an honorary co-chairmen of The Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), reformed for the third time in 2004 with the single goal “to stiffen American resolve to confront the challenge presented by terrorism.” Frank Gaffney and Daniel Pipes, key propagandist and conspiracy theorists for the Islamophobia movement, served on the committee with Lieberman. Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy is an anti-Muslim hate group. Daniel Pipes, is the grandfather of U.S. Islamophobia who thinks Islam “has nothing functional to offer” and that “brown-skinned” immigrants have unpleasant “standards of hygiene.”

Criticized Obama Administration For Not Using Phrase “Islamist extremism”: In 2010, six years before then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump drew national attention for criticizing President Obama and Hillary Clinton for not using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorists,” Lieberman, according to Mother Jones, as a honorary co-chairmen of CPD sent a letter rebuking President Obama, deputy national security adviser John Brennan, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over their dropping the phrase “‘Islamist extremism” and replacing it with “violent extremism,” declaring that “this action contradicts the accepted military intelligence doctrine to properly identify, define, and know your enemy.”

Wanted DHS to Monitor Religious Beliefs of American Citizens: Primary U.S. Senate sponsor of the Homeland Security Reauthorization Act of 2011 (S. 1546), which included a provision that specifically singled out American Muslims for additional scrutiny. The bill sought to create a new coordinator position within DHS to direct efforts on “counter homegrown terrorism” and “violent extremism” in the U.S., “particularly the ideology that gives rise to Islamist terrorism.” CAIR opposed the legislation because it would have unconstitutionally supported counterterrorism measures that pursue beliefs, not criminal actions. Moreover, under such a program ordinary American Muslims, not Al Qaeda extremists, would have ended up being investigated.

Opposed Anti-Muslim Law Enforcement Trainings: Joined Susan Collins (R-ME) in an April 2011 letter to then Attorney General Eric Holder and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano expressing that they “are concerned with recent reports that state and local law enforcement agencies are being trained by individuals who not only do not understand the ideology of violent Islamist extremism but also cast aspersions on a wide swath of ordinary Americans merely because of their religious affiliation.” Lieberman again joined Collins in September 2011 in threatening the Obama administration to establish an “adequate vetting process for individual trainers” or else they would “consider drafting a legislative mandate or even imposing standards by statute.” In October 2011, in response to pressure from congress and a concerted campaigned waged by civil rights and faith groups, DHS issued its “Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Training Do’s and Don’ts” that prohibited the federal use or funding of Islamophobic trainers

Supported Revoking U.S. Citizenship of Terrorists: Primary U.S. Senate sponsor of the Terrorist Expatriation Act in 2010 (S. 3327), an act that would have “added joining a foreign terrorist organization or engaging in or supporting hostilities against the United States or its allies to the list of acts” for which a United States citizen would lose their citizenship. In promoting the legislation, Lieberman said “American citizenship is a privilege, not a right.” U.S. judges have long set a very high standard for revoking U.S. citizenship due to the potential for abuse of the power.

Promoted Deeply Flawed NYPD Study of Domestic Radicalization of American Muslims: In 2008, as Committee Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, Lieberman released a report on “homegrown terrorism” that claimed the threat posed by violent extremists now comes “increasingly from within” the U.S. The report heavily relied upon a widely criticized and deeply flawed New York Police Department study on domestic radicalization that claimed that typical “signatures” of radicalization of American Muslims included wearing traditional clothing, growing a beard, or giving up cigarettes, drinking, and gambling. While the report cited the value of increasing outreach to American Muslim and Arab-American communities, the committee heard testimony from only one witness from the American Muslim community.

Supported the Use of Torture, Immunity for Torturers, and Keeping Torture Secret: In 2008, he voted against the current ban on waterboarding and the “prohibition of harsh interrogation techniques” as part of “a wider intelligence authorization bill” that would have “restricted all American interrogators to techniques allowed in the Army Field Manual.” In 2009, he introduced an amendment that would have permitted the Obama administration to suppress any “photograph taken between September 11, 2001 and January 22, 2009 relating to the treatment of individuals engaged, captured, or detained” after 9/11 by U.S. forces.” The amendment did not succeed.  In 2009, he joined Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham in a letter calling on President Obama to not prosecute the authors the George W. Bush Administration’s torture memos. The letter stated in part: “Pursuing such prosecutions would, we believe, have serious negative effects on the candor with which officials in any administration provide their best advice, and would take our country in a backward-looking direction at a time when our detainee-related challenges demand that we look forward.”

Mike Rogers – Former Rep. (R-MI)

Supported the First “Muslim Ban” Executive Order: In January, Rogers voiced support for the first “Muslim Ban” executive order, describing it as placing the “the security of American citizens first.” Rogers added that “Americans’ safety is at stake if we continue to allow people in from countries with known terror activity.” He continues to state, “Until there is a new and effective refugee vetting process in place, this executive order is necessary.”

George Terwilliger – Deputy Attorney General Under President George H.W. Bush

Vocalized His Disapproval of Sally Yates for Refusing to Enforce the “Muslim Ban”: Terwilliger spoke against former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she was fired for her refusal to enforce Trump’s unconstitutional “Muslim Ban” executive order. Terwilliger told the Associated Press that Yates’ actions had “undermined the independence of the institution of the Justice Department,” and that it “was an affront to the career men and women of the Justice Department who every day have to go into court and represent the position of the United States — whether they agree with it or not.”

Defended and Advocated for Racial and Religious Profiling: In 2002, on CNN’s Crossfire program, Terwilliger defended the Justice Department’s prioritized targeting of young Arab men. He said, “There’s a terrorism profile. And race and ethnicity is just a part of that.” Terwilliger continued to say, “The fact that the Justice Department is choosing to make — finding Arab-Americans who are in that non-immigration — I’m sorry, Arabic students and others are in that non-immigration status, that they’re choosing to make that a priority makes all the sense in the world. You’d have to be a village idiot to do otherwise.”

Larry Thompson – Deputy Attorney General Under President George W. Bush

Signed Memo Deporting Man to Be Tortured In Syria: In 2002, as Deputy Attorney General Thompson signed a memo denying Canadian citizen Maher Arar, falsely designated a terrorist, to return home to Canada. This lead to Arar’s deportation and subsequent torture in Syria. In what is widely claimed to be a case of “extraordinary rendition,” Thompson signed the memo despite warnings from U.S. immigration authorities that sending Arar to Syria “would more likely than not result in his torture.”

Kenneth L. Wainstein – Homeland Security Advisor to President George Bush

Said There Was “No Tolerance” For Anti-Islamic Rhetoric: As U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, Wainstein stated that “law enforcement shows no tolerance for those who use e-mail to spread hateful anti-Islamic rhetoric and threaten violence against innocent persons and organizations.”


ACT For America

ACT for America is one of the largest anti-Muslim hate group in the U.S. ACT advances harmful conspiracy theories about Muslim Americans, supports anti-Muslim politicians, and advocates for anti-Muslim policies.

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Adelson Family Foundation

The Adelson Family Foundation is among the largest private donors to anti-Muslim groups, warding $5.85 million to anti-Muslim groups between 2014 and 2016, and then giving nearly $4 million to these groups between 2017-2019.

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American Center for Law and Justice

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is an anti-Muslim, constitutional law firm established by televangelist Pat Robertson and Jay Sekulow. This organization is known for disseminating anti-Muslim propaganda. 

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