75 ex-top prosecutors endorse Biden's pick for associate AG

By Michael Balsamo
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 75 former U.S. attorneys are throwing their support behind President Joe Biden’s nominee for associate attorney general and urging congressional leaders to quickly confirm her to the post.

Vanita Gupta has been nominated for the No. 3 position in the Justice Department, a position in which she would be responsible for overseeing the department’s civil, antitrust and civil rights litigation, but also for helping to implement policy decisions on a host of nationwide issues. She was in charge of the Justice Department’s civil rights division in the Obama administration.

The Senate has scheduled the confirmation hearing for Gupta and Lisa Monaco, Biden’s nominee for deputy attorney general, for March 9. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a two-day hearing last week and then voted Monday to advance the nomination of Merrick Garland to be attorney general.

“Many of us observed firsthand Ms. Gupta’s independence, integrity, and excellent judgment when she served as the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division,” read the letter, signed by a bipartisan group of former top prosecutors. “In that position?, she worked hand-in-hand with U.S. Attorney’s Offices to protect vulnerable members of our communities by prosecuting those who committed hate crimes, human trafficking, and other violations of our civil rights laws.”

The letter further emphasizes the support Gupta has received from law enforcement organizations and prosecutors as the administration seeks to move the Justice Department forward after a tumultuous four years under Donald Trump.

Her nomination has been endorsed by some of the most prominent law enforcement organizations in the nation, including the National Fraternal Order of Police, whose president said she has always been able “to find common ground even when that seemed impossible.”

“Although in some instances our disagreements remain, her open and candid approach has created a working relationship that is grounded in mutual respect and understanding,” the organization’s national president, Patrick Yoes, said in a letter to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Last month, a conservative advocacy group, the Judicial Crisis Network, launched an ad campaign against Gupta’s nomination, arguing that she was “dangerous” and trying to cast her as soft on crime. Other conservative groups have sought to push a narrative that she is “anti-police” and on Monday, five Republican attorneys general sent a letter to Biden asking him to withdraw her nomination because of what they said were “recent public, adverse statements toward police.”

Before her nomination, Gupta was in charge of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of civil rights organizations.

In the letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the leaders of the Judiciary Committee — Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the former prosecutors said they understand how critical it is for the Justice Department’s leaders to “have an unshakable commitment to its independence and its integrity.”