President Obama will ask Congress to allow FBI Director Robert Mueller to remain in his job an extra two years, a rare exemption that would give the U.S. government continuity in a time of change atop the national security team, the White House announced Thursday.
The news comes as a surprise for an administration that had been seriously vetting candidates to replace Mueller, whose term is set to expire on Sept. 4 under a law that caps the service of FBI directors at 10 years.
"Given the ongoing threats facing the United States, as well as the leadership transitions at other agencies like the Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency, I believe continuity and stability at the FBI is critical at this time," Obama said in a statement issued by the White House.
Mueller was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush and began just a week before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks of 2001. Well regarded by Republicans and Democrats, Mueller is known for transforming a crime-fighting agency into the front line of defense against terrorism.
Obama will ask Congress for a two-year extension that would apply only to Mueller. White House officials say it has never been done for an FBI director but has in other cases.
Mueller is the sixth person to serve as FBI director. He is a former U.S. attorney in San Francisco and a Marine Corps veteran.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report