NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- President Donald Trump said he is "very close" to naming a new FBI director as he prepared to embark on his first foreign trip in office.
However the announcement will not come Friday, which was the soft deadline Trump set for himself.
Former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman is among the top contenders. Trump also met with former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating; Richard McFeely, a former top FBI official; and acting FBI director Andrew McCabe.
Trump's firing of Comey was an unexpected move that drew bipartisan criticism. Comey was overseeing the FBI's investigation into Russia's role in the presidential election, including ties between Russian government officials and Trump associates.
In an attempt to quell the furor over Comey's ouster, the Justice Department this week hired former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to oversee the investigation.
Trump said the decision to name a special counsel "divides the country."
In a tweet Thursday, the president claimed, "This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history."
"Well, I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt and there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign," Trump later said during a joint press conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
The Senate must confirm Trump's candidate for the FBI job.
The president departs Friday on his inaugural overseas trip, a four-country, five-stop journey tour of the Middle East and Europe that will keep him out of the country for more than a week.
The first stop on his nine-day trip is Saudi Arabia where he will meet with Muslim leaders, then he heads to Israel followed by a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican. The last leg of the trip includes a NATO meeting in Brussels, Belgium and a G7 economic summit in Sicily, Italy.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
for more features.