President Donald Trump plans to nominate Jessie Liu, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, for the role of associate attorney general, the White House announced Tuesday.
The job, the No. 3 position at the Justice Department, has been vacant for over a year since former associate attorney general Rachel Brand’s unexpected departure. Brand left last February to join Walmart as its global governance director. As The Washington Post noted, a year is an unusually long time for such a senior position to remain unfilled.
Liu, 46, was nominated by Trump in 2017 to head the country’s largest U.S. attorney’s office ― one that oversees many politically sensitive investigations, recently including cases related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.
During her confirmation, Democrats raised Liu’s service on Trump’s transition team as a potential conflict of interest, but she was nonetheless confirmed in September 2017. According to the Post, she’s since been “seen as a steadying presence” in the U.S. attorney’s office in D.C.
The freshly minted attorney general, William Barr, said in a Tuesday statement that he had recommended Liu ― who previously worked at the Justice Department during the presidency of George W. Bush ― for the role of associate attorney general.
“Jessie has distinguished herself as a first-class attorney in private practice, in the Treasury Department, and in five different positions over her career at the Department of Justice,” Barr said, according to Politico.
“With her record of public service, particularly in civil justice and federal law enforcement matters, it is clear that she will be an outstanding addition to our leadership team at the Department,” he added.
If confirmed, Liu will oversee the Justice Department’s civil litigation, including antitrust and civil rights matters.
Though some observers have described Liu’s nomination as an “excellent choice,” others have questioned whether Trump has ulterior motives in making the decision.
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow pointed out that Liu, as the U.S. attorney for D.C., is currently overseeing several criminal cases that involve Trump associates and/or are related to Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
At the Department of Justice, Liu will be working “primarily on antitrust matters and civil issues,” Maddow said. “She will have nothing more to do with any criminal cases of any kind, let alone the kinds of national security criminal cases that she’s been involved in,” including cases involving Trump’s onetime campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, Russian spy Maria Butina and longtime Trump associate Roger Stone.
“By moving Jessie Liu out of that top prosecutor job in D.C., the president, of course, will also get the opportunity to pick a new person to take over all of those now-ongoing cases,” Maddow pointed out.