Andrew Luger is President Biden’s nominee for United States Attorney for the District of Minnesota. Luger’s nomination is pending in the Senate, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has placed a hold on it until Luger responds to critical questions raised by the responsibility of the Minnesota office of the U.S. Attorney for the sentencing memo recommending leniency for Montez Terriel Lee’s arson/murder committed in the course of the George Floyd riots of 2020. I have embedded McConnell’s February 8 letter to Luger at the bottom of this post.
Luger is the former United States Attorney who saved Ilhan Omar’s political career with a timely letter in August 2016. I wrote about that episode here this past November and followed up here last month.
The sentencing memo submitted by the Minnesota office under the aegis of then Acting U.S. Attorney Anders Folk and Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Calhoun-Lopez recommended a sentence substantially reduced over that of the Sentencing Guidelines applicable to Lee’s offense. According to the sentencing memo, Lee was rioting in a good cause. I covered the sentencing memo, most recently, in this January 28 post expanding on my original January 18 post.
Readers who get their news from the Star Tribune would never know it, but Lee’s sentencing has blown up into a national story that has impacted Luger’s nomination. In his letter to Luger Senator McConnell squarely confronts and condemns the sentencing memo. He will have none of it:
Political violence is a cancer in free societies. In fact, that Mr. Lee’s violence was in furtherance of a political cause makes it worse, not better, than the mere exploitation of chaos. To use a parallel example, it would seem almost insane to argue that a criminal who assaulted the United States Capitol on January 6th, 2021, with the explicit intention of obstructing Congress’ constitutional duties, should receive a lesser sentence than somebody else who trespassed on federal property at a different time just because he could. But in the case of Mr. Lee, the Acting U.S. attorney in Minnesota seems to have reached the bizarre conclusion that his radical political motives somehow excuse, rather than exacerbate, his wrongdoing.
In the United States of America, we hash out our political differences using the ballot box, not using a matchbox. It is critically important for lawful authority to deter those who would intimidate their political opponents through violence or its threats. It is therefore shocking that the former Acting U.S. Attorney in Minnesota saw things differently, presumably because he bears some sympathy for the cause Mr. Lee violently supported. That is unacceptable. It is therefore shocking that the former Acting U.S. Attorney in Minnesota saw things differently, presumably because he bears some sympathy for the cause Mr. Lee violently supported. That is unacceptable.
McConnell has accordingly informed Luger that he is holding his nomination until he assures McConnell, in writing, “that under your leadership: (1) political violence will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and (2) this shall be done with no regard for the particular political views underlying the violence.”
I would only add that the sentencing memo is ludicrously credulous about Lee’s alleged political motives for his violence. Lee himself is a thug with a not insignificant rap sheet. He came up to Minneapolis from Rochester in the wake of Floyd’s death as law enforcement withdrew from the scene. There is no good reason to believe that Lee set the fire and burned down the pawnshop in the conflagration that killed Oscar Lee Stewart for any reason other than the hell of it.
UPDATE: Late last night the Star Tribune delivered the news to its readers, along with Luger’s response. Luger advised Senator McConnell that he “was not involved in the decision making regarding the matter” and couldn’t comment on Lee’s sentencing. “I can, however, assure you that, if confirmed as U.S. Attorney, violent crime cases — regardless of motivation — will be prosecuted fully, and that I will require the prosecutors under my supervision to make all prosecutorial decisions based on the individual facts and circumstances of each case, and without regard to the political or ideological viewpoint of the defendant, consistent with the Principles of Federal Prosecution,” Luger wrote.