Two Assistant Attorneys General whose friendship goes back over 20 years were formally installed to their respective positions in a joint ceremony Friday afternoon in the Great Hall of the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building.
Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs Laurie Robinson served in the same role during the Clinton administration.
Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legislative Affairs Ron Weich came to the Justice Department after working on Capitol Hill and leading the team that steered Attorney General Eric Holder through the confirmation process earlier this year.
Robinson oversees the research and development arm of the Justice Department, including assisting law enforcement agencies through DOJ grants.
Weich heads the Office of Legislative Affairs, which serves as the liaison between DOJ and the legislative branch.
Holder, along with Deputy Attorney General David Ogden and Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, took part in the ceremony and praised Robinson and Weich.
“Laurie and Ron are not only valued colleagues, they are leaders in the department and throughout this administration,” said Holder. “Their credentials are impeccable; their qualifications are self-evident; and their professional reputations for integrity are well-deserved.”
Holder said Weich is his right arm when he goes to Capitol Hill. The Attorney General and said the two have worked well together ever since Holder got Weich to admit that Holder’s high school, which was a rival of Weich’s high school in New York City, was better than his. (Holder attended Stuyvesant High School; Weich went to the Bronx High School of Science, according to the BLT.)
He said he had a tough time convincing Robinson to return to the Justice Department, as she was happy with her position directing the Master’s Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Criminology, and “her relative freedom from her BlackBerry.” Eventually Holder, Ogden and Perrelli convinced Robinson to return to the Department.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Weich’s former boss, were also in attendance. Reid came in midway through the ceremony, having been held up on the Hill with the health care debate. (Weich had also worked for the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and, for 10 months in 1989, then-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who switched parties earlier this year.)
Sessions, a frequent critic of Holder, praised both Robinson and Weich, both of whom he has worked with before. Weich has a reputation for forthrightness and hard work, said Sessions.
“Since I have [Weich] captive here, I believe complicit in your duties will be the responsibility to work in a bi-partisan and cooperative basis,” said Sessions. “I know you will do that since you’ve worked on both sides of the aisle.” He also pointed to Weich’s role as the “gatekeeper” between the Justice Department and the legislative branch.
“This county would not be a better place with politicians making legal decisions,” said Sessions, who served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama for 12 years. “Trust me.”
When Robinson came up for confirmation before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions praised her previous work at the Department of Justice.
“I hate to repeat it in front of the Attorney General, but I said at the time that she may have been the finest appointment that President Clinton made in his time in office,” said Sessions. Holder, who had also been appointed by President Clinton as U.S. Attorney in D.C. and then as Deputy Attorney General, smiled and threw up his hands.
Sessions said Robinson, who controls programs that account for $2 billion in the DOJ funding bill for 2010 that is currently being considered by the Senate, has “a vast empire to guard.”