The White House nominated James M. Cole as deputy attorney general, turning to a veteran Washington lawyer to fill a critical position that has been vacant for months, reports the Washington Post. Cole, 58, is a white-collar defense lawyer and longtime friend of Attorney General Eric Holder. Cole had spent 13 years at the Justice Department. He also worked as an independent monitor reviewing the operations of American International Group, the insurance giant that was bailed out during the financial crisis. Senate Republicans plan to make that an issue in his confirmation hearings.
The deputy attorney general is essentially a chief operating officer for the Justice Department, running a 24-hour operation with more than 100,000 employees. The job involves such tasks as setting policy, deciding whether to prosecute high-profile cases, and resolving disputes between Justice agencies. If confirmed, Cole would take over at a time of great challenges. Among them are navigating relations with the White House, finding a place to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other alleged plotters of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and investigating possible fraud related to the financial crisis. The previous deputy attorney general, David Ogden, stepped down within a year of his confirmation .A major reason was a lack of chemistry with Holder and senior staff members. Cole and Holder worked together in Justice’s public integrity section, where Cole was deputy chief before leaving in 1992. Their relationship will be key in avoiding the problems that befell Ogden.