Lawyer Who Investigated Russia for FIFA Is on FBI Director Shortlist

Michael Garcia quit after FIFA refused to release his report and allegedly misrepresented its findings.
May 12, 2017, 5:30pm
Photo by Kremlin / CC BY

The White House released a list of potential candidates to replace former FBI Director James Comey to Fox News on Friday, and it includes an old friend to the sports world: former U.S. attorney Michael Garcia.

You might remember Garcia from such investigations into Russian conspiracies as the 18-month FIFA investigation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids, one of which was won by Russia. You also might recall that Garcia's superiors buried the report and allegedly misrepresented its findings, and he resigned in protest.

FIFA had hired Garcia in 2012 to investigate the bidding processes for the two allegedly corrupt World Cups. He spent 18 months and interviewed more than 75 witnesses (without any subpoena power) before writing his 430-page report. FIFA immediately declared that the report would never be made public.

Instead, in November of 2014, the (recently fired) head of the FIFA's Investigatory Chamber Hans-Joachim Eckert produced his own 42-page summary, which Garcia immediately condemned, saying it "contains numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions." Garcia then reported Eckert, who was also the chair of the ethics committee, to the appeals committee for an ethical violation (it was later rejected on procedural grounds, and FIFA gave no indication Eckhert's recent firing had anything to do with this report, instead saying it was a move to increase diversity). A month later, Garcia quit.

At the very least, Garcia seems ruthlessly principled. In a March 2013 speech, Garcia said, regarding his role at FIFA, that "my authority is to investigate any official—top down—for misconduct. No one is above the ethics code." When one of his three daughters was five years old, as recounted in a 2006 New York Times profile, he told her his job was to "punish people who do bad things and break the law."

In April 2013, Garcia was one of the 18 Americans banned from entering Russia as direct retaliation to the Magnitsky Act, an Obama-era bipartisan law punishing Russian officials for the death of Sergei Magnitsky. Also, Garcia's wife is an FBI agent. Somehow, I don't think he'll get the job.