Utah’s only Democratic lawmaker in the Capitol, Rep. Jim Matheson has recommended former Utah federal prosecutor David Schwendiman to President Obama to replace U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman, Salt Lake City ABC affiliate KTVX reported last week. The decision was made “several months ago,” an aide to the member of Congress said today.
Matheson spokesperson Alyson Heyrend said Tolman, Schwendiman and about seven other candidates applied for the post, but would not confirm whether her boss picked Schwendiman earlier this year.
Schwendiman is currently serving overseas as an international prosecutor in the Special Department for War Crimes of the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He has held the post since May 2006. Schwendiman was an Assistant U.S. Attorney, First Assistant U.S. Attorney and Interim U.S. Attorney when he served in the Utah office from 1987 to 1998. The highlight of Schwendiman’s time as Assistant U.S. Attorney was from 1993 to 1997, when he served as a key aide to then U.S. Attorney Scott Matheson, Rep. Matheson’s older brother. You can read his full bio here.
Utah Republican Sens. Bob Bennett and Orrin Hatch will no doubt object. They have urged Obama to keep Tolman in place. Senators traditionally recommend U.S. Attorneys to the president, but House members often make the recommendations when the senators are not in the same party as president. It is ultimately up to the president to choose a nominee.
Tolman, who has been U.S. Attorney since 2006, has recently found himself in a firestorm of controversy over the Indian artifact raid earlier this month. Utah’s senators have criticized the Justice Department for the amount of force it used to net about a dozen alleged perpetrators. Hatch said last week it was “unnecessary and brutal” to employ 100 agents with guns drawn to make arrests for non-violent crimes. Two people indicted in the raid have since committed suicide. Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff also questioned the intentions of the Justice Department in Utah before he met with Tolman to reconcile their differences.
Despite the negative fallout from the raid, Tolman will likely hold onto his post for several more months while Schwendiman is overseas, KTVX said.