I wrote here about Jessie Liu, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and the Trump administration’s nominee for Associate Attorney General, the number three position at the Justice Department. Liu’s nomination concerned me because she was the Vice President of the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) when that organization opposed and condemned the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. NAWL stated:
[Alito] is not qualified to serve on the Court from the perspective of laws and decisions regarding women’s rights or that have a special impact on women.
After I wrote my post, Liu explained that she disagreed with NAWL’s position on Alito and resigned from the organization not long afterwards when she accepted a position at the Bush Justice Department. Indeed, Liu signed a letter of Yale Law School alumni in support of Alito’s nomination.
Although Liu’s explanation raised a few questions (e.g., did she resign due to disagreement with NAWL or because of her new job and why did she agree to become NAWL’s president-elect between the time of the Alito denunciation and her resignation?), I concluded that Liu likely would be okay as the Associate Attorney General.
Some conservative Republican Senators did not so conclude. They reportedly raised serious concerns over Liu’s role in an organization that opposed Alito and backed abortion rights.
In the face of these concerns, Liu has withdrawn her name from consideration.
Based on my conversations with folks who know Liu, it shouldn’t be too difficult for the administration to find a well-qualified replacement who is more conservative than she is. If the administration is willing to consider white males, the task will be easy.
UPDATE: Mike Lee apparently is the main Senator who stood in Liu’s way. According to this report, Justice Department officials are “livid” about it:
“Only a moron like Mike Lee would tank President Trump’s nominee, an Asian woman, for the department’s No. 3 job,” a senior Justice official told CNN. “This is beyond politically stupid.”
The reference to Liu as “an Asian woman” is telling, I think. In my opinion, Liu is well-qualified to be Associate Attorney General. But it has seemed to me that the administration is quite keen to fill the job with a woman (the job originally was held by Rachel Brand), or a minority group member, or (ideally) someone who is both.
Sen. Lee’s office says his opposition to Liu centered around the issue of abortion. By no means should a Senator who disagrees with a nominee’s views on a key issue back off because of the nominee’s race or gender.
Unnamed Justice Department officials reportedly say that “in some ways” Liu is “more conservative than Lee.” If they are talking about leniency for felons, or criminal law in general, they are probably right.
Overall, however, the people I’ve communicated with about Liu would scoff at the idea that she’s more conservative than Mike Lee.