WASHINGTON – David S. Cohen, a former deputy director of the CIA, is President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s first choice to head the spy agency, according to several people familiar with the process.
Mr. Biden has not made any final decisions and his selection depends in part on the mix of people he wants to lead the Pentagon and other agencies. No official announcement is expected until at least next week.
Still, key aides said Mr. Biden loved Mr. Cohen and that Avril D. Haines, Mr. Biden’s choice to become director of national intelligence, also supported the potential appointment. Mr Cohen, who succeeded Ms Haines as deputy head of the CIA, worked closely with her on the National Security Council’s ‘committee of deputies’ – made up of the No. 2 heads of security departments and agencies national – under the Obama administration.
At times, including early in the Obama administration, relations between the office of the director of national intelligence and the CIA have been strained. Ensuring an easy partnership between Ms Haines and the director of the CIA is a priority for the new administration, according to people who have spoken to transition officials, and the choice of Mr Cohen would potentially reduce friction to a minimum.
Ned Price, a spokesperson for Biden’s transition team, declined to comment.
At the CIA, Mr. Cohen helped set up the joint operation between the agency, the FBI, and the National Security Agency that investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Mr. Cohen is also a former senior treasury official who oversaw the ministry’s financial sanctions against Russia, Iran and terrorist organizations.
Now a partner at the law firm WilmerHale, Mr. Cohen seized a moment of glory after the Obama administration for an appearance on the HBO series “Game of Thrones”. depicting a scruffy resident of Winterfell.
Mr Cohen became the top candidate after Tom Donilon, a former national security adviser to President Barack Obama, withdrew from the exam and Michael G. Morrell, a former acting director of the agency considered one of the best candidates, was attacked by the senator. Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Mr Wyden said he would not support Mr Morrell because of his defense of the CIA’s interrogation program during the Bush administration which included the torture of terrorism suspects.