The associate attorney general position is the number three spot in the hierarchy at the Department of Justice. There has not been a Senate-confirmed person in that job since February 2018, when Rachel Brand left the administration for a much better-paying job at Walmart. Somewhat surprisingly based on his gender and racial attitudes, President Trump appointed an Asian-American woman to fill the post. Jesse Liu has been the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia since September 2017. She went to Harvard and got her law degree from Yale. During the administration of George W. Bush, she served in the DOJ as deputy chief of staff in the National Security Division, counsel to the deputy attorney general, and deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division. When Samuel Alito was nominated to the Supreme Court, she joined dozens of other Yale Law graduates in signing a letter of support for his confirmation.
Nonetheless, Trump has just withdrawn her nomination. Some are saying it is because a group of Republican senators don’t trust her to be anti-choice, and the position of associate attorney general has responsibility for health care-related issues among many other things. It’s not clear why these senators don’t trust her, but it’s probably not the reason her nomination was spiked.
National Public Radio is reporting that Senator Mike Lee of Utah had some sort of shouting match with Attorney General William Barr over Ms. Liu’s nomination. Lee chairs the antitrust subcommittee in the Senate, and Samuel Alito’s son Philip serves on the staff. Apparently, Philip has a problem with Ms. Liu.
Four lawyers familiar with the matter said the stumbling block for Liu was a broader concern about her conservatism — specifically, her stance on women’s reproductive rights. Interest groups had begun drafting letters to senators about their fears that Liu would not support restrictions on abortion. Another key factor: Earlier in her career, Liu had an affiliation with the National Association of Women Lawyers, which sent a letter opposing the nomination of Justice Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.
It looks like the Alito family remembers very well which organizations did not support Samuel’s nomination the Supreme Court. So, once they found out that Liu once had “an affiliation” with one of those organizations, it was an immediate World War Three to deny her the position. They probably didn’t bother to look deeper and discover that Liu had personally endorsed Alito for the Court.
This is a petty and stupid reason for denying her the position. Also, it shouldn’t be legal to deny a woman a job because she doesn’t support restricting her own constitutional rights.
In any case, it doesn’t look like the third in command is going to be a very well-qualified Asian-American woman. They’ll probably find someone with a law degree from Pat Robertson University instead.