« Pondering marijuana reform echoes after another historic election cycle | Main | After Tennessee Gov postpones last scheduled state execution of year, will all three scheduled federal 2020 executions still go forward? »

November 8, 2020

So who are you rooting for to be the next US Attorney General?

I would be eager to hear from readers about who they would like to to see nominated by Joe Biden to be the next US Attorney General.  This Politico article, headlined "Meet the contenders for Biden’s Cabinet," discusses these purported front-runners:

With Tommy Tuberville’s defeat of Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) on Tuesday, Jones will be unemployed come January and available to join Biden’s cabinet. Jones wouldn’t add to the Cabinet’s diversity, but the former U.S. attorney in Alabama has credibility when it comes to civil rights: He led the successful prosecutions of two members of the Ku Klux Klan involved in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, nearly 40 years later. Jones also happens to be a friend of Biden’s, dating back to his work on Biden’s first presidential campaign in 1988.

Jones, however, is likely to have competition for the Attorney General post, including from Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez. Perez is “in the mix,” said Oscar Ramirez, a Democratic lobbyist who worked in the Obama administration and is active in Latino Democratic circles. Another person who’s tracked the early jockeying for attorney general said allies of Perez have floated his name.

Perez has Justice Department experience: He served as assistant attorney general for civil rights in President Barack Obama’s administration before Obama tapped him as Labor secretary. But he also faces a potential obstacle with Republicans likely to remain in control of the Senate: No Republicans voted to confirm him as Labor secretary in 2013, and it’s unlikely that his years leading the DNC have endeared him to the GOP.

Another name being mentioned is Sally Yates, a former deputy attorney general in the Obama administration, who became a progressive cause célèbre when President Donald Trump fired her in the early days of his presidency for refusing to defend his executive order barring entry to people several Muslim countries. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is another potential candidate, Ramirez said, although he’s also been mentioned as a possible Homeland Security secretary. California Gov. Gavin Newsom might also tap Becerra, a former congressman, to fill the Senate seat that Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will vacate in January. (Becerra previously succeeded Harris as California attorney general in 2017 following Harris’ election to the Senate.)

This USA Today article, headlined "President-elect Joe Biden seeks diverse Cabinet to 'look like America' in leading federal departments," throws out these additional names:

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a white member of the Senate Judiciary Committee where she has been harshly critical of Attorney General William Barr. She dropped her presidential campaign after the South Carolina primary and endorsed Biden....

Stacey Abrams, a Black former member of the Georgia Legislature who was among those considered as Biden’s running mate.  Abrams has been a fierce advocate for voting rights after running an unsuccessful but high-profile campaign for governor of Georgia, a state that was surprisingly competitive for Biden.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., a Black member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and presidential candidate, was a key sponsor of sweeping criminal justice legislation aimed at cutting mandatory minimum sentences and reducing the federal prison population.

Preet Bharara, who was born in India, a former chief federal prosecutor in Manhattan’s Southern District of New York, was fired by Trump after the then-newly elected president had asked him to remain on the job.  Bharara subsequently described a series of contacts with Trump before his firing that he said threatened the Justice Department’s independence from the White House.

I have always been a big Cory Booker fan, in part because he has long been a vocal advocate for a range of federal sentencing reforms.  So I think he is the candidate I am rooting for, though I sense he may be a relative long shot.  And I am genuinely eager to hear from readers about their thoughts about people on this list or anyone else who might become our nation's next "top law enforcement officer" for the United States.

November 8, 2020 at 09:30 PM | Permalink


We all should be rooting for Barr as the next AG

Posted by: restless94110 | Nov 9, 2020 4:53:43 AM

The question being whether they would take it: but I could see Preet Bharara as the head on the Criminal Division and Stacey Abrams as head of the Civil Rights Division. Stacey Abrams at Civil Rights would be a sign that this administration is going to make a serious effort at enforcing voting rights. And Preet Bharara at the Criminal Division would signal a return to normalcy in prosecutions.

I think Doug Jones will get something in the cabinet. If not AG, then something significant. If Abrams needs to be given something in the cabinet, maybe HUD. Perez probably gets something, between his prior service as Secretary of Labor and his current position as head of the DNC. AG sounds possible as I am not sure what else would qualify as a significant promotion -- maybe Chief of Staff (but I would expect somebody closer to Biden) or OMB.

I think we are more likely to see a token Republican senator (from a state with a Democratic governor) getting a cabinet position than any Democratic senator.

Posted by: tmm | Nov 9, 2020 11:05:57 AM

Yates almost singlehandedly blocked clemency for many applicants during the Obama Administration. The pardon attorney resigned over her conduct. I would find it very concerning for Yates to be the AG, notwithstanding her #resistance credentials, and find it telling that no one's talking about Vanita Gupta, a real deal civil rights lawyer and former head of the Civil Rights Division, for AG.

Posted by: Matt | Nov 9, 2020 1:40:14 PM

Preet Bharara would be horrible for the position. My clemency petition died on Yates desk, and she should not be there.

C. Booker is the person for the position although I would like to see Shon Hopwood there or at least the Deputy A.G. Biden wants it to be more diverse....How about a guy that defied the odds, knows what the criminal justice system looks like from all places inside and out. Shon Hopwood is your guy or Booker. Love S. Abrams at the Civil Rights Division.

At the end of the day we need real retroactive criminal justice reform and we know people deserve second chances..... we can get that moving through clemency.

I am a former federal prisoner that served over 17 years on a mandatory 40 year sentence.

Posted by: Chad Marks | Nov 9, 2020 4:57:12 PM

This is not even debatable. All the names thrown out are a joke. All DOJ insiders and fake reformers. Sally Yates was a horrible Deputy AG, she sabotaged Obama's clemency initiative, and is NOT a reformer. The Alice Johnson story only occurs because Sally Yates failed in her job, or worse.

I just did 28 years on a life sentence in the BOP and was released under compassionate release (not for COVID or Medical) and there is only ONE name that truly makes sense and who will truly reform the system. Judge John Gleeson. His credentials are impeccable.

Everyone else is just window dressing.

Posted by: Daniel | Nov 9, 2020 9:34:42 PM

Let me see. Trump's deliberate refusal to encourage the people to wear masks, and his reckless holding of rallies which caused the virus to spread everwhere, qualifies in my book as reckless conduct leading to the death of hundreds of thousands of persons. Add to that his countless acts of obstruction of justice, venality and corruption. In sum, we need an attorney general who will and encourage Trump's indictment, trial, conviction, and imprisonment. I think John Gleeson is the man!!

Posted by: anon | Nov 9, 2020 10:05:32 PM

Bahara and Yates are non-starters. They are complicit in our system of over-incarceration. Your record matters.

Posted by: whatever | Nov 10, 2020 1:08:04 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB