The furor over Operation Fast and Furious has receded, but it’s left top Justice Department official Kevin Ohlson beached.
Attorney General Eric Holder’s former chief of staff was nominated by President Barack Obama to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Services in September 2011. A veteran of the Persian Gulf War and a career Justice Department lawyer, Ohlson’s nomination shouldn’t have been controversial. But it got caught up in the politics of the GOP congressional investigation of the botched gun-tracking investigation on the southwest border.
In a nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee in November 2011, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) grilled Ohlson about the gun probe. Ohlson answered that he was not privy to the details of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives-led operation. At the time, the GOP-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was actively investigating Fast and Furious, a failed attempt to track weapons purchased by straw buyers in the U.S. for Mexican drug cartels.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, kept on the pressure from the Senate side.
After Ohlson’s nomination hearing, a congressional staffer told Main Justice that even Democrats in the Senate were not rushing to push Ohlson’s nomination through as the congressional investigation into Fast and Furious continued.
So, Ohlson was left dangling for all of 2012. Meanwhile, the Republican-led House voted in June to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in criminal contempt of Congress for failing to release documents related to the department’s response to the congressional Fast and Furious probe.
Yesterday, the new 113th Congress convened, which means that Ohlson’s nomination in the previous Congress has expired. The nomination was sent back to the White House. No word yet on whether Obama will renominate Ohlson, who currently serves as the department’s chief of the Professional Misconduct Review Unit, which decides punishment for prosecutors found to have committed misconduct.
Ohlson has been a longtime deputy to Holder. He served as the Attorney General’s chief of staff from 2009 to January 2011. He served in the same capacity from 1997 to 2001 when Holder was the Deputy Attorney General during the Clinton administration. In the 1990s Ohlson was Holder’s spokesman when Holder served as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.
He also has the military credentials. He was an army officer, working as both a paratrooper and judge advocate, and he won a Bronze Star for his combat duty in the Persian Gulf War.
Ohlson declined to comment.