Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) told Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday that she wants a U.S. Attorney who is a holdover from the George W. Bush administration to continue his oversight of federal investigations into two high-profile Democrats, The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., reported today. She had earlier said the same thing to the White House.
The Democratic senator recommended Thomas G. Walker as the nominee for U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina in July. But she urged the White House to allow current U.S. Attorney George E.B. Holding to continue his oversight of federal probes into former Gov. Mike Easley and Sen. John Edwards, who are both Democrats, even after Walker is confirmed. The White House has remained quiet on Holding’s tenure since President Obama nominated Walker last week.
Hagan, who won a close election last year in her conservative state, has worked hard to not seem as though she backs removing Holding from his position overseeing the Easley and Edwards investigations.
Holder gave assurances to the North Carolina senator in a brief telephone conversation on Monday, according to the newspaper.
“The attorney general assured the senator that the Justice Department handles investigations based solely on their merit and without regard to the political affiliation of the U.S. attorney,” Justice Department spokesperson Melissa Schwartz told The News & Observer.
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The White House is keeping quiet on whether it will allow a U.S. Attorney who is a holdover from the George W. Bush administration to continue his work on two high profile investigations of North Carolina Democrats after a replacement chosen by Barack Obama is confirmed by the Senate, The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., reported today.
President Obama on Monday tapped lawyer Thomas G. Walker to succeed George E.B. Holding, as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Holding is overseeing federal probes of former Gov. Mike Easley and Sen. John Edwards, who are both Democrats.
Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) recommended Walker for the post, but asked the White House to keep Holding at the Raleigh-based U.S. Attorney’s office to complete work on the investigations even after his replacement is confirmed by the Senate. The White House declined to comment to the newspaper on the matter.
Legal experts told The News & Observer that Holding will likely continue his work on the probes until they are complete.
“If there’s resistance, [Hagan] could put a hold on [the Walker nomination.] But that’s just awkward,” Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor who studies the Justice Department, told the newspaper. From Hagan’s point of view, he said, “It’s your president, and your suggestion for the nominee. But I think maybe the White House and the Justice Department would be flexible about that, if that’s what she wants.”
Holding, who has been U.S. Attorney since 2006, refused to acknowledge the existence of the probes in an interview with The News & Observer. The newspaper said he didn’t seem concerned about leaving office.
“It is the president’s choice,” Holding told The News & Observer.
We reported last month that Holding didn’t seem eager to step down from his post. He attended a meeting of the conservative Federalist Society in November and expressed concern about the direction President Obama is taking the judiciary.
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President Obama nominated U.S. Attorneys for Wyoming, the Eastern District of Wisconsin, the Eastern District of North Carolina and the Eastern District of Michigan today. They are:
- Christopher A. Crofts (Wyoming): Gov. David Freudenthal’s legal counsel since 2006 previously served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for 16 years. He would replace Bush holdover Kelly Rankin, who has headed the office since 2008.
James L. Santelle (Eastern District of Wisconsin): The Assistant U.S. Attorney has served in his current role since 1985. While working in the office he simultaneously has had stints as principal deputy director for the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, civil division chief for the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Western District of Michigan and a Justice Department attaché. He would replace Steven Biskupic who was appointed U.S. Attorney by Bush in May 2002. In 2007, Biskupic and his office came under review by congressional investigators looking into the dismissal of U.S. Attorneys. He resigned in January to join the Milwaukee law firm of Michael Best & Friedrich as a litigator.
Thomas G. Walker (Eastern District of North Carolina): The partner at Alston & Bird, LLP has been with the firm since 2003. He previously served as special counsel to North Carolina attorney general Roy A. Cooper, III, an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina and an assistant district attorney for Mecklenburg County, N.C. Walker would replace Bush holdover George E. B. Holding. Holding is overseeing federal probes of two prominent Democrats: Former Gov. Mike Easley and two-time presidential candidate, ex-Sen. John Edwards.
Barbara L. McQuade (Eastern District of Michigan): The Assistant U.S. Attorney has served in her role for 11 years. Simultaneously she has served as deputy chief of the national security unit since 2005. McQuade previously was an associate at Butzel Long, P.C. She would replace Stephen J. Murphy who became U.S. Attorney in 2006. In 2008 he became a federal judge in the Eastern District of Michigan.
Obama has now made a total of 34 U.S. Attorney nominations. The full Senate has considered 24 of those nominees and they were all confirmed by unanimous consent.
Ryan Reilly contributed to this report.
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Benjamin David, the district attorney for New Hanover and Pender counties in North Carolina, on Wednesday announced that he is removing his name from consideration for nomination as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Wilmington television station WECT reports.
David was one of three people that Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) had recommended to President Obama. The other two people are Hampton Dellinger, a partner at the Chapel Hill law firm of Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson, and Thomas Walker, a partner at the Charlotte law firm of Alston and Bird.
David cited his desire to remain in the DA’s office, among other personal and professional reasons, for his decision to withdraw from consideration, WECT reported. According to the television station, David said he plans to run for re-election as district attorney next year.
Obama has yet to name a nominee, which might be due in part to the fact that Hagan has said she wants the current Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney, George Holding, to stay in office until he can complete probes of two prominent Democrats: former Gov. Mike Easley and former Sen. John Edwards.
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U.S. Attorney George E.B. Holding hasn’t made it easy for President Barack Obama to appoint a new top federal prosecutor in North Carolina’s Eastern District. The George W. Bush appointee is overseeing investigations of two prominent Democrats — former Gov. Mike Easley and John Edwards — and hasn’t shown any inclination he’ll step down.
The situation has caused Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) to take the contorted position that the White House should move ahead with a Democratic nominee and keep Holding on to finish the probes. The predictable result: No nomination has moved for the Eastern District.
With Hagan bending over backwards not to appear partisan, what about Holding? He appears less concerned with appearances. Last week, he attended the conservative Federalist Society meeting in Washington and expressed concern about the direction Obama is taking the judiciary, the National Law Journal reported.
Holding made his remarks during a question-and-answer period following a speech from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) last Thursday at the society’s National Lawyer Convention. He identified himself as a “prosecutor from North Carolina,” a C-Span video of event shows.
“I’m concerned about the changing makeup of the 4th Circuit,” said Holding, who has served as U.S. Attorney since September 2006.
President Barack Obama tapped James A. Wynn Jr. and Albert Diaz, both of North Carolina, and Barbara Milano Keenan of Virginia for judgeships in the 4th Circuit.
Sessions said he is concerned with 4th Circuit judge Andres David of Maryland, who was confirmed Nov. 9. But he said Republicans are reluctant to hold up judicial nominees.
“We’ve resisted filibusters of judges, thinking it’s not a good idea,” Sessions said.
Hagan recommended that Obama nominate one of three men: Benjamin David, district attorney for New Hanover and Pender counties; Hampton Dellinger, a partner at the Chapel Hill law firm Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson; or Thomas Walker, a partner at Charlotte law firm Alston and Bird, for the post. David on Wednesday said he has removed his name from consideration.
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The Associated Press profiles George Holding, the U.S. Attorney in Raleigh, N.C., who’s managed to hang onto his job because he’s investigating prominent Democrats, making other prominent Democrats scared to touch him.
Read The AP profile here.
The profile is nicely written but left me with a lot of unanswered questions. For example, what are the political pressures on Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.)? As the state’s Democratic senator, Hagan gets to recommend the next U.S. Attorney. But she is obviously one of those Democrats scared to death of this mess, because she’s recommended that President Obama retain Holding, a protege of the late Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), a far-right conservative.
Hagan wants Holding to finish his investigations of Gov. Mike Easley and former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. Read our previous report here.
The story quotes Helms’s former chief of staff, Jimmy Broughton, saying: ”One thing George is not is political.”
There wasn’t a thing about Helms that was not political. So to me, this statement really translates as: “We are going to tell people George is not political, so he can finish off these highly political investigations of Easley and Edwards.” But maybe I’m wrong. Readers, any thoughts?
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Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) told President Obama this week she wants Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney George E. B. Holding to have some role in the North Carolina Eastern District that would allow him to continue overseeing ongoing probes of prominent Democrats.
Holding has served as U.S. Attorney since 2006. He is supervising two high profile investigations of former Gov. Mike Easley and John Edwards, the two-time former Democratic presidential candidate from North Carolina.
The U.S. Attorney is probing Easley on the free use of cars and flights on jets owned by the former governor’s political supporters. Edwards is being investigated on whether he improperly steered money from his campaign or related non-profits to Rielle Hunter, the video-maker with whom he had an affair and a child.
Hagan recommended that Holding remain as U.S. Attorney until the two probes are over. But said she would also support another U.S. Attorney in the office if Holding could still oversee the investigations. The North Carolina senator said she also supported Benjamin David, district attorney for New Hanover and Pender counties; Hampton Dellinger, a partner at Chapel Hill law firm Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson; and Thomas Walker, a partner at Charlotte law firm Alston and Bird.
She said in her letter to Obama:
“As I have previously discussed with the Office of the White House Counsel, it is my belief that the current U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, George Holding, should be allowed to complete the ongoing investigations of public officials in the state. During my conversations with the Office of the White House Counsel, there was an interest expressed by the Counsel’s office to potentially appoint a separate individual to begin handling other matters not related to these investigations.”
Justice Department spokesperson Melissa Schwartz said there can only be one U.S. Attorney in office at a time. But she said there can be a U.S. Attorney and an acting U.S. Attorney when there is a U.S. Attorney recusal.
U.S. Attorneys often recuse themselves from cases to avoid a potential conflict of interest. If an Obama-appointed U.S. Attorney were put in place and the Bush-appointed Holding became an acting U.S. Attorney in charge of the probes, Republicans would be hard pressed to find Democratic improriety in the investigations — Hagan’s apparent goal.
Conservatives could have some doubts about Dellinger if he were confirmed as the next U.S. Attorney. Dellinger was special counsel and deputy attorney general for then-Attorney General Easley.
The full biographies of the Eastern District candidates from Hagen are here:
-Benjamin David currently serves as the district attorney for New Hanover and Pender counties, leading 45 public servants that prosecute over 75,000 cases a year. A graduate of Wake Forest Law, David worked as an associate at Kilpatrick Stockton, LLP prior to election as the Assistant District Attorney in Wilmington in 1999.
-Hampton Dellinger is currently a partner at the law firm of Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson. Dellinger has experience working with local, state, and federal law enforcement and public officials from his rolse as Special Counsel to North Carolina’s attorney general, deputy attorney general and as former Gov. Mike Easley’s chief legal counsel.
-Thomas Walker has been a partner at Alson and Bird, LLP concentrating on complex federal and state government investigations and white-collar defense since 2003. Prior to joining the firm, Walker served as a special counsel to North Carolina Attorney General Ray Cooper from 2001 to 2003. He was also an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Western District for seven years.
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U.S. Attorney George E. B. Holding in North Carolina’s Northern District told the Raleigh News-Observer that he wants to stay in his job until a successor is confirmed.
“I’ve committed to serve until they find someone else they want to serve,” he said. “My intention is to do the best job I can do every day and do that until someone is confirmed and I hand them the keys.”
The problem: The FBI is investigating former Gov. Mike Easley for free use of cars and flights on jets owned by his political supporters. And John Edwards, the two-time former Democratic presidential candidate from North Carolina, is under federal investigation for whether he improperly steered money from his campaign or related non-profits to Rielle Hunter, the video-maker with whom he had an affair and a child.
The Raleigh newspaper describes the situation as sensitive for Sen. Kay Hagan. Hagan is the Democrat who knocked off Elizabeth Dole (R) in last year’s Senate election. As the state’s Democratic senator, she is supposed to get to recommend a Democrat for the U.S. Attorney post following President Obama’s capture of the White House. But any move to replace Holding could look as if she’s trying to protect Democrats Edwards and Easley, local political strategists told the newspaper.