WASHINGTON – The White House renewed its search for a homeland security chief Saturday as the candidate picked by President Bush apologized for an immigration problem involving a family housekeeper that forced him to withdraw.
“I owe the president … a great apology that this may have caused him and his administration a big distraction,” Bernard Kerik said.
Speaking from his home in Franklin Lakes, N.J., the 49-year-old Kerik said he had discovered a few days before that he had not paid all required taxes for a family nanny-housekeeper and that the woman may have been in the country illegally.
The surprise withdrawal by the former New York City police commissioner sent Bush back in search of a nominee to head the sprawling Homeland Security Department.
“We will certainly work to name someone as quickly as possible,” White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said Saturday.
On Saturday, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has been mentioned as a possible choice, expressed no interest in the job. “I am not a candidate,” he said.
Sen. Susan Collins, the Maine Republican who heads the Senate committee that will take up the nomination, said two “terrific choices” would be Asa Hutchinson, the department’s undersecretary for border and transportation security, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.
Among the names that had been circulating for the post before Kerik’s selection were Joe Allbaugh, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency; Mike Leavitt, former Utah governor and now head of the Environmental Protection Agency; and White House homeland security adviser Fran Townsend.