Tony West’s nomination to the No. 3 post within the Justice Department could be delayed if the department refuses to hand over to Congress about 1,000 documents related to an alleged “quid pro quo” arrangement brokered between the department and city officials in St. Paul, Minn., Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said today.
West, the acting Associate Attorney General, was nominated to fill the position full-time in September. Grassley is the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which approves presidential nominations.
Republicans say evidence came to light that showed the department struck a deal with St. Paul officials in February. City officials allegedly withdrew a housing discrimination case before the Supreme Court in exchange for the department’s assurances it would not join a False Claims Act case against St. Paul.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder today, Grassley said a Nov. 19 interview with former Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli makes clear that West was involved in the arrangement when he was serving as the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division.
“Given that Mr. West’s nomination for Associate Attorney General is currently pending before the Committee, it is important that the Committee understand his involvement in these matters,” Grassley wrote. “The Department’s decision to deny the opportunity for my staff to review these documents is misplaced and threatens to delay the review of Mr. West’s nomination.”
The House Judiciary and the Oversight and Government Reform committees, along with the House subcommittee on TARP, financial services and bailouts of public and private programs, requested in September that the department produce more than a thousand pages of documents related to the alleged quid pro quo in St. Paul.
Grassley noted in his letter today that the department made available the 1,268 pages of documents to the House committees. Grassley, however, has not been able to review the documents, he wrote.
“To date, the department has failed to allow my staff to review the [documents], even in camera, despite my oversight responsibilities on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary (Committee) and the serious questions this arrangement raises,” he wrote. “I am disappointed that the department has failed to provide my staff the same access that it has provided the staff of the House Committees.”
The Iowa lawmaker wrote that the department did not hand over documents to Grassley because there was no request from the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who is Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont. “However, no such request is required by any law, rule, regulation or judicial precedent,” he wrote.
“It is unfortunate that Mr. West’s nomination could be delayed by this request, but it is necessary because you have denied my staff access to documents essential to ensure adequate and appropriate Congressional oversight of the Executive Branch as part of the executive nominations process,” the letter states.
After Republicans began their inquiry into the alleged deal in September, department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said the resolution in both cases was appropriate.
“The resolution reached in these cases was in the best interests of the United States and consistent with the Department’s practice in reaching global settlements,” Schmaler said in a statement, according to the Washington Post.