A bipartisan group of eight former Deputy Attorneys General on Wednesday sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) encouraging the Senate to consider the nomination of James Cole to be the Justice Department’s No. 2 official.
“Because of the responsibilities of the position of deputy attorney general, votes on nominations for this position usually proceed quickly,” the letter said.
The letter was signed by three former DAGs from the George W. Bush administration, Mark R. Filip, Paul J. McNulty, and Larry D. Thompson; two from the Clinton administration, Jamie Gorelick and Philip Heymann; one from the George H.W. Bush administration, Donald B. Ayer, and Carole E. Dinkins, who served during the Reagan administration.
President Barack Obama’s first DAG, David W. Ogden, who created the opening for Cole when he resigned in February, also signed the letter.
Obama nominated Cole on May 24. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed him out of committee on July 20. The former DOJ officials wrote that Cole’s nomination has been pending before the Senate for 120 days; the longest for a DAG in the past 20 years has been 32 days.
Senate Republicans have objected to a 2002 article Cole wrote in support in of civilian trials for terrorism suspects, and to his work as a corporate monitor for insurance giant American International Group Inc., one of the biggest recipients of government bailout funds during the financial crisis.
Cole is a white collar defense lawyer and partner at Bryan Cave LLP. As a special counsel to the House ethics committee in the mid 1990s, he investigated then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) for misuse of tax-exempt organizations for political purposes.
If Cole isn’t approved before the 111th Congress adjourns in coming weeks, the White House will have to renominate him or find another candidate. The deputy attorney general is the day-to-day manager of the department.
Although acting DAG Gary Grindler is “capable,” he doesn’t have full authority on crucial national security decisions, the ex-DAGs wrote. Only a Senate-confirmed deputy can sign applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the letter noted. The FISA court authorizes wiretaps to listen in on suspected foreign terrorists in the United States.