Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to be here this morning and attempt to clear up the misunderstandings and misperceptions about the recent resignations of some United States Attorneys (USA), and to testify in strong opposition to S.214, a bill which would strip the Attorney General of the authority to make interim appointments to fill vacant USA positions.
As you know, I had the privilege of serving as a USA for 4 ½ years. It was the best job I ever had. That’s something you hear a lot from former USAs – “Best job I ever had.” In my case, Mr. Chairman, it was even better than serving as counsel on the House Crime Sub. under your leadership.
Why is being a USA such a great job? There are a variety of reasons, but I think it boils down to this. The USAs are the President’s chief legal representatives in the 94 federal judicial districts. In my former district of Eastern Virginia, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshal was the first USA.
Being the President’s chief legal representative means you are the face of the Justice Department in your district. Every police chief you support, every victim you comfort, every citizen you inspire or encourage, and, yes, every criminal who is prosecuted in your name, communicates to all of these people something significant about the priorities and values of both the President and the AG. At his innauguration, the President raises his right hand and solemnly swears to faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States. He fulfills this promise in no small measure through the men and women he appoints as USAs. If the President and the Attorney General want to crack down on gun criminals or go after child pornographers and pedophiles, as this President and AG have ordered federal prosecutors to do, it’s the USAs who have the privilege of making such priorities a reality. That’s why it’s the best job a lawyer can ever have. It’s an incredible honor.
And this is why, Mr. Chairman, judges should not appoint USAs, as S.214 proposes. What could be clearer Executive Branch responsibilities than the AG’s authority to temporarily appoint and for the President to nominate for Senate confirmation those who will execute the President’s duties of office? S.214 doesn’t even allow the AG to make ANY interim appointments, contrary to the law prior to the most recent amendment.
The indisputable fact is that USAs serve at the pleasure of the President. They come and they go for lots of reasons. Of the USAs appointed in my class at the beginning of this Administration, more than half are now gone. Turnover is not unusual and it rarely causes a problem because even though the job of USA is extremely important, the greatest assets of any successful USA are the career men and women who serve as AUSAs, victim-witness coordinators, paralegals, legal assistants, and administrative personnel. Their experience and professionalism ensures smooth continuity as the USA job transitions from one person to another.
Mr. Chairman, I conclude with these three promises to this Committee and the American people on behalf of the AG and myself:
1) We never have and never will seek to remove a USA to interfere with an ongoing investigation or prosecution. Such an act is contrary to the most basic values of our system of justice, the proud legacy of the Department of Justice, and our integrity as public servants.
2) In every single case, where a USA position is vacant, the Administration is committed to filling that position with a USA who is confirmed by the Senate. The AG’s appointment authority has not, and will not, be used to circumvent the confirmation process. All accusations in this regard are contrary to the clear factual record. The statistics are all laid out in my written statement.
3) Through temporary appointments and nominations for Senate confirmation, the Administration will continue to fill USA vacancies with men and women who are well qualified to assume the important duties of this office.
Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your friendship and courtesy, and I am happy to respond to the Committee’s questions.