Former top terror adviser spotted at White House day before FBI director was fired

PHOTO: Former Homeland Security Advisor to United States President George W. Bush and TV personality Frances Townsend speaks at the 2016 Concordia Summit - Day 2, Sept. 20, 2016, in New York.PlayRiccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit
WATCH Fallout in Washington over Comey's firing

A former White House counterterrorism official, who many consider to be a candidate to replace fired FBI Director James Comey, was spotted at the White House shortly before Comey was "terminated" six years ahead of the end of his term.

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Frances Townsend, who served in the George W. Bush administration as a White House homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, posted several photos on her Twitter and Instagram accounts snapped while inside the White House on Monday afternoon.

"Looking up and down the spectacular staircases of the #EEOB @WhiteHouse #DC," Townsend tweeted the following day.

Townsend, who met with Donald Trump at Trump Tower last year when she was under consideration for a top administration job, appears on several speculative lists of candidates who may be tapped by President Donald Trump to lead the FBI following Comey’s dismissal.

Asked today if she was visiting the White House to discuss the appointment, which would make her the first woman to occupy the FBI director's office, Townsend told ABC News she was in the Executive Office Building for an unrelated meeting and would not comment on whether she was being considered.

On Wednesday afternoon, however, Townsend tweeted a Politico story listing 11 potential candidates for the job, including herself.

Whoever takes over the post will inherit an institution beset by challenges. Comey and the FBI are being probed by the Department of Justice's Inspector General for their actions during the 2016 presidential election, while at the same time foreign counter-intelligence agents at the FBI continue to investigate the Kremlin's efforts to influence or compromise Trump campaign associates.

Townsend owns an impressive resume. She was a federal prosecutor in New York who rose to be a senior intelligence official at the Department of Justice and U.S. Coast Guard in Washington. A protégé of Rudy Giuliani when the Republican was a top federal prosecutor, she later became a close adviser and confidante of President Bill Clinton’s Attorney General Janet Reno. 

She was transferred to serve as intelligence chief at the Coast Guard after Bush's Attorney General John Ashcroft took office, but Townsend quickly rebounded by landing inside the Bush White House after the 9/11 attacks.

One major obstacle to joining the Trump administration, however, could be Townsend's signature alongside dozens of prominent national security veterans on an open letter declaring that Trump was "fundamentally dishonest" and a candidate who was "utterly unfitted to the office."

In an appearance on CBS News, where she is a paid contributor, Townsend criticized Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation -- which the White House has cited as the underpinning of the decision to fire him -- and praised Trump and his advisers for their decision to fire Comey.

She also said the Russia-Trump campaign probe will press ahead.

"The same FBI agents, who yesterday woke up and issued subpoenas and were working with prosecutors on the Russian investigation, are the same people who are waking up today and doing the same job," Townsend said. "In some respects, it's business as usual at the FBI. That investigation is moving forward."

Editor's note: Townsend told ABC News late Wednesday that she was at the Eisenhower Old Executive Office Building on Monday, the day before Comey was fired, to "attend a long-scheduled, unrelated meeting." She posted photos from inside the building the following day.

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