James Cole was sworn in on Monday as the new Deputy Attorney General.
Although Cole was nominated in May and was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in July along a party-line vote, his nomination was returned to President Barack Obama late last month. However, Obama appointed Cole to the position one week later, installing him while Congress was in recess.
Attorney General Eric Holder said, “I am pleased to welcome Jim back to the Department of Justice,” adding, “He will be critical in our work to keep the American people safe, ensure the fairness and integrity of our financial markets, and restore the traditional missions of the Department.”
Cole’s nomination became controversial among Republicans. They centered their concerns on Cole’s work as an independent monitor for insurance giant AIG, which the Federal Reserve bailed out during the 2008 financial industry crisis, and a 2002 article Cole wrote endorsing civilian trials for terrorism suspects.
In a Sunday blog posting, the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin came down hard on Cole. She wrote that Republican lawmakers “this week will continue to decry the recess appointment of James Cole … but the question here is Cole’s fitness to serve.” She went on to assert that “there is reason for Republicans and Democrats alike to be deeply concerned over the appointment,” despite the fact that he only will hold the position for one year. The DAG, she write, “can do quite a lot of harm in 12 months.”
She cited comments from Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the judiciary panel’s leading Republican, about several positions Cole’ has taken and possible conflicts of interest.
Rubin concluded, “The question remains: why would the president and the attorney general select Cole from among all the qualified attorneys in the country to fill the number-two spot in the Justice Department?” She added, “It would seem both Cole and Eric Holder should do some explaining, under oath, once Congress reconvenes.”