President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for attorney general will have to balance competing demands within his party on thorny issues of civil rights, the environment and the department’s traditional independence from politicians, reports the Washington Post. Top contenders include former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), former Homeland Security boss Jeh Johnson, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and former White House adviser Lisa Monaco.
Among Biden’s transition team, talks have focused on reinstituting a more robust civil rights division and pushing more vigorously on criminal justice reform. At the same time, Biden has pledged to restore independence at the department. A new AG could swiftly withdraw some of the controversial directives of President Donald Trump’s attorneys general. Those include Jeff Sessions’ order restricting the federal ability to enforce changes at state and local law enforcement agencies accused of abuses through court-monitored consent decrees, and his sweeping order calling for prosecutors to charge cases in such a way that they would trigger mandatory minimum sentences. Biden has vowed to establish a separate Environmental and Climate Justice Division and direct officials to pursue environmental cases “to the fullest extent permitted by law.” Biden has vowed to reinvigorate the Community Oriented Policing Services office, which doled out grants in the Trump administration but stopped working with police departments on broad reform agreements.