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Obama Appoints Deputy Attorney General, Bypassing Republicans

Obama Appoints Deputy Attorney General, Bypassing Republican
US President Barack Obama. Photographer: Chris Kleponis/AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama installed James Cole as deputy U.S. attorney general, the nation’s second-ranking law enforcement post, by appointing him during the congressional recess to overcome Republican opposition.

Obama nominated Cole to the position in May. Two months later, the Senate Judiciary Committee sent his nomination to the full Senate, where Republicans blocked its consideration. The nomination was returned to the White House when the Senate adjourned last week.

Cole can serve without Senate confirmation until the expiration of the next session of Congress, or about a year. The first session of the 112th Congress begins Jan. 5.

Cole, 58, spent 13 years at the Justice Department, including four years as deputy chief of the public integrity section, which handles corruption prosecutions of public officials. He entered private practice in 1992 and joined the Washington office of Bryan Cave LLP as a partner in 1995. He was special counsel to the House ethics committee during its 1997 investigation of then-Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Georgia Republican.

At Cole’s Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in June, Republicans criticized him for describing suspected terrorists as criminals, suggesting that he favored trying them in U.S. courts rather than holding them as enemy combatants.

Senate Republicans also were critical of Cole’s performance at American International Group Inc., where he was hired as an independent monitor as part of a 2004 agreement with the government. At the time, AIG was accused of violating accounting standards and paid a $126 million fine without admitting any wrongdoing. AIG ceded majority control to the U.S. government in 2008 in exchange for $85 billion in loans.

David W. Ogden left the deputy attorney general’s job in February to return to private practice.

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