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Posts in "Appointments"
November 24, 2014
Updated 12:23 p.m. | President Barack Obama is getting a new Defense secretary.
Obama announced Monday in the State Dining Room that Chuck Hagel will be leaving his post once a successor is confirmed by the Senate. Hagel tendered his resignation earlier Monday after a series of crises erupted on his watch, including the rise of Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
October 16, 2014
President Barack Obama’s plate is getting a little more full, with the announcement Thursday that Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole is exiting the administration.
With Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. already on his way out, Cole’s exit will leave the top two positions at the key Cabinet agency vacant.
“Over the past four years, Jim Cole has been my indispensable partner in leading the U.S. Department of Justice and extending the promise of equality under the law for everyone in this country,” Holder said in a statement, adding he will be “dearly missed.” Full story
October 15, 2014
Updated 4:38 p.m. | After the last administration pick to head the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division collapsed on the Senate floor, the Obama team has lined up some conservative backing for its new choice, American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Vanita Gupta.
As the news of her appointment broke in The Washington Post, DOJ spokesman Brian Fallon tweeted out favorable quotes about Gupta from Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, and David Keene, the former president of the National Rifle Association.
Those are the kind of endorsements that will be needed to get approval for the pick — either from moderate Democrats who helped sink the previous choice, former NAACP lawyer Debo Adegbile — or from the GOP, which may control the Senate in January. Full story
October 14, 2014
Eric H. Holder Jr. better not pack up his Justice Department office just yet.
President Barack Obama will not be nominating a successor to his long-serving attorney general until after the midterm elections, a White House official confirmed Tuesday. Holder has said he will remain at the Justice Department until a new attorney general is confirmed by the Senate.
September 30, 2014
President Barack Obama hasn’t named a replacement for outgoing Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., but that future nominee can count on a contentious Senate confirmation process, whether it happens in the November lame-duck session or next year.
Attorney general nominations and confirmations — like everything in Washington — have become highly partisan clashes in recent years. Janet Reno, in 1993, was the last attorney general to be confirmed without any “no” votes. (Of course, her pathway to the job was anything but smooth. She was Bill Clinton’s third choice, after it was revealed that his top pick, corporate lawyer Zoe Baird, and his second, federal judge Kimba Wood, both had employed illegal immigrants as nannies.)
Among the most contentious nomination fights in recent years:
September 26, 2014
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest is citing Sen. Mitch McConnell’s support for the lame-duck confirmation of then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2006 as precedent for a quick confirmation of a replacement for Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.
Earnest made the reference Friday at the his daily briefing, although he did not lay out a timetable for the president to make his decision.
He noted unprompted that the Gates nomination came the day after midterm elections with Democrats winning control of the chamber, and McConnell, R-Ky., did not propose waiting until the new Democratic Senate took over before holding a vote.
Gates, however, won overwhelming support — a 95-2 vote — and a delay would not have affected the outcome.
Earnest also noted the swift confirmation of Michael Mukasey as attorney general in 2007 by a Senate of the other party.
The Mukasey vote was narrow — 53-40.
The White House hopes for quick consideration under either scenario.
September 25, 2014
Updated 12:30 p.m. | Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will announce his resignation Thursday at the White House, according to a Justice Department official, in a move that shocked and saddened some of his supporters but had Republicans cheering. He will serve until his successor is confirmed.
By announcing his resignation now, Holder gives President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats the opportunity to confirm a successor in the lame-duck session even if Republicans take over the Senate in the midterm elections. After deploying the “nuclear option” last year, a minority cannot filibuster the confirmation of an administration official, effectively allowing Democrats to ignore Republicans on nominees. But that would all change if Republicans controlled the chamber.
The White House has scheduled the announcement for 4:30 p.m.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told MSNBC he spoke with Holder and the White House today and hopes Obama will pick a nominee soon and the Senate should confirm a replacement “as quickly as possible.”
“But I hate to see Eric Holder leave…. Nobody’s done it better than he has,” Leahy said.
NPR, which broke the story, named Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. as a possible successor, citing sources. Verrilli regularly defends the administration before the Supreme Court, including in the landmark case upholding the bulk of the Affordable Care Act.
The news, announced by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at a forum by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, caused gasps and shock from the crowd.
“That is so bad. That is terrible. Why?…That is so sad,” Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., can be heard on the tape. “That is shocking.”
Pelosi led a round of applause for Holder.
But Holder’s long had a strained relationship with Republicans on Capitol Hill, with the House making history by voting to hold him in contempt in 2012, the first Cabinet official ever to be held in contempt.
Lawmakers are also already reacting on Twitter.
Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., cheered.
Good riddance Eric Holder. Your disregard for the Constitution of the United States will not be missed.
— Rep. Jeff Duncan (@RepJeffDuncan) September 25, 2014
Not surprisingly, Democrats were kinder.
House contempt vote against Holder is a low point for Congress. Redolent of a bias that shames the House majority
— Gerry Connolly (@GerryConnolly) September 25, 2014
Here’s the full background memo from the Justice official:
Later today, at a formal event at the White House, Attorney General Holder will announce his plans to depart the administration after nearly six years leading the Justice Department. The Attorney General has agreed to remain in his post until the confirmation of his successor.
Holder is the 82nd Attorney General and the first African-American to serve in the role. He currently ranks as the fourth-longest serving Attorney General in United States history; he will have the third-longest tenure if he remains in office into December. He is one of only three Cabinet members from President Obama’s original team still serving in the post to which he was first named.
Attorney General Holder has discussed his plans personally with the President on multiple occasions in recent months, and finalized those plans in an hour-long conversation with the President at the White House residence over Labor Day weekend. At a formal announcement later today, the Attorney General plans to express his personal gratitude to the President for the opportunity to serve in his administration and to lead the Justice Department, which he will call the “greatest honor of my professional life.” He will note he has loved the Justice Department since, when he was a boy, he watched how, under Attorney General Kennedy, the Department played a leadership role in advancing the civil rights movement. During his tenure as Attorney General, Holder has had Attorney General Kennedy’s portrait in his conference room.
The Attorney General has no immediate plans once he steps down. He does, however, wish to stay actively involved in some of the causes to which he has devoted his time in office. In particular, following his recent visit to Ferguson, Missouri, he has spoken with friends and associates about his wish to find a way, even after rejoining private life, to continue helping to restore trust between law enforcement and minority communities. As a career prosecutor with strong relationships with law enforcement, as well as the first African-American Attorney General who retains deep ties to leading civil rights organizations, Holder is uniquely positioned to help lead such a project.
Upon his departure, Holder will conclude a career at the Justice Department that, added together, will have spanned 26 years. He has served at almost every level of the Department over that time. He first joined the Department right out of Columbia Law School in 1976 as a member of the Attorney General’s Honors Program. He was assigned to the newly created public integrity unit within the Criminal Division as a career prosecutor focused on corruption cases. In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Holder as the U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C. He served in that role until 1997, when he was appointed Deputy Attorney General, becoming the first African-American to serve in that role.
Holder also served for four years as a Superior Court judge in Washington DC. Immediately prior to becoming Attorney General, Holder was in private practice as a litigation partner at the firm Covington & Burling.
The Attorney General’s tenure has been marked by historic gains in the areas of criminal justice reform and civil rights enforcement. The last week alone has seen several announcements related to these signature issues. On Tuesday, in a milestone moment for Holder’s efforts to reduce the trend of ever-increasing incarceration, the Attorney General announced that the federal prison population showed the first annual drop since 1982. On Wednesday, in a new step on sentencing reform, the Attorney General instructed federal prosecutors to no longer ask judges to approve enhanced sentences for defendants simply because they may reject plea deals. And just today, Holder announced that the Department would become involved in a lawsuit over New York’s public defender program, siding with the plaintiffs in arguing that the defenders’ excessive caseloads are preventing them from providing low-income defendants with adequate counsel.
Holder is expected to remain busy in his remaining time in the job. Over the coming weeks, the Department is expected to impose new curbs on racial profiling in the context of federal law enforcement investigations; the policy is expected to prevent the considerations of other characteristics beyond race—such as ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation—as well as apply the ban to national security investigations for the first time. The Attorney General also hopes to complete, by year’s end, the review on the death penalty that the President ordered the Department to conduct last spring. On financial fraud, the Attorney General has discussed the possibility of individuals soon being criminally charged in connection with an ongoing investigation into several major financial institutions. And in the event that the Supreme Court decides to hear a case on state bans on same-sex marriage this term, Holder has indicated the Department would file a brief consistent with its past support for marriage equality.
On Friday, the Attorney General will travel to the US Attorney’s office in Scranton, Pennsylvania. In doing so, he will complete his goal of visiting all 93 federal prosecutors’ offices across the country during his time in office. He is believed to be the first Attorney General to accomplish this feat. Attorney General Holder reserved Scranton for his final stop because the Middle District of Pennsylvania was the site of his first victory as a Justice Department trial attorney in the late 1970s.
Earlier today, Attorney General Holder privately informed his staff and top officials at the Justice Department about his departure plans. He also placed calls to congressional officials and friends.
Holder is married to Dr. Sharon Malone and has three children.
Joanna Anderson contributed to this report.
May 30, 2014
Updated 10 a.m. | Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki apologized for the scandal rocking his department Friday, but he did not resign ahead of a meeting with President Barack Obama this morning.
“I apologize,” to Congress, the public and to the veterans, Shinseki said — calling the findings of systemic shortcomings in VA health care unacceptable.
“Leadership and integrity problems can and must be fixed, and now,” he said, announcing a series of changes that include plans to remove any leader who tolerated deception in scheduling practices.
Obama said in a taped interview airing this morning on “Live With Kelly and Michael” that he plans to have a “serious conversation” with Shinseki about whether he has the capacity to fix the VA’s problems.
“I don’t want any veteran to not be getting the kind of services they deserved,” the president said.
May 16, 2014
Updated 4:05 p.m. | The chief health official at the Department of Veterans Affairs resigned Friday, amid an ongoing scandal about wait times and deaths within the VA health system.
“Today, I accepted the resignation of Dr. Robert Petzel, Under Secretary for Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a statement. “As we know from the Veteran community, most Veterans are satisfied with the quality of their VA health care, but we must do more to improve timely access to that care.”
But one top congressional overseer called Shinseki’s announcement the “pinnacle of disingenuous political doublespeak.”
May 15, 2014
One of President Barack Obama’s closest advisers, Rob Nabors, has been deployed to help fix troubles at the Department of Veterans Affairs in the wake of damaging stories of veterans dying while waiting for care and calls from some lawmakers in Congress for the resignation of Secretary Eric Shinseki.
Shinseki, facing a hostile hearing Thursday morning in the Senate, thanked the White House for sending Nabors to help him review practices at the department.
“Rob is a fresh set of eyes, he’s a son of a veteran … and a proven performer,” Shinseki said in his opening remarks. Full story