Cornyn, a former Texas attorney general and judge on the state supreme court, was interviewed for the position after President Donald Trump abruptly fired James Comey last week. Trump himself called and urged Cornyn to take the job, but the senator said in a statement Tuesday that he would rather remain in the Senate.
"Now more than ever the country needs a well-credentialed, independent FBI director," Cornyn said. "I've informed the administration that I'm committed to helping them find such an individual, and that the best way I can serve is continuing to fight for a conservative agenda in the U.S. Senate."
Another Republican whose name had been mentioned as a possible candidate, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, said Monday that he had taken himself out of the running. A friend of federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland, someone recommended by several senators, also said Tuesday that Garland is happy in his job and has no interest in leaving the judiciary to head the FBI. The friend spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
The administration has interviewed at least eight candidates to replace Comey, of more than a dozen being considered. Trump has said a decision could come before he leaves Friday for a trip to the Mideast and Europe. In addition to members of Congress, the list includes current and former FBI and Justice Department leaders and federal judges.
A source familiar with Cornyn's thinking said the senator felt "obligated" to consider the job because a friend, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, asked him to, and Trump called and asked him to think about it. The source declined to be named because the decision was private.
Cornyn is the No. 2 Republican in the Senate behind Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said Tuesday that he'd recommended that Trump nominate Garland for the post.
Garland's name began to surface as a possible replacement last week when GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah suggested it on Twitter. McConnell later agreed that he would be a good choice.
President Barack Obama nominated Garland to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court last year after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, but McConnell declined even to hold a hearing. Senate Republicans insisted at the time that the next president should replace Scalia, and the strategy paid off when Trump won the election. The high court vacancy was filled last month by Neil Gorsuch.
Questioned about Garland later in the day, McConnell said he "illustrates the kind of person I hope and expect will come next, somebody with deep credentials in criminal justice and criminal justice enforcement, completely apolitical and in line with prior FBI directors."
FBI directors have predominantly been drawn from the ranks of prosecutors and judges. Comey, for instance, was a former United States attorney in Manhattan before being appointed deputy attorney general by George W. Bush. His predecessor, Robert Mueller, was a U.S. attorney in San Francisco.
Associated Press writer Sam Hananel contributed to this report.
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.