Administration eyeing defense lawyer Cole as deputy attorney general

By Al Kamen
Monday, April 19, 2010; 6:36 PM

The Obama administration is preparing to nominate Washington white-collar defense lawyer James A. Cole as its next deputy attorney general, sources are telling the nonprofit newsroom ProPublica.

Cole, a 13-year Justice Department veteran and a longtime friend of Attorney General Eric Holder, would take over for David W. Ogden. Ogden left the post in early February after about 11 months.

White House and Justice Department sources declined Monday to confirm or deny the report.

Cole, 57, has held numerous jobs in government. He was deputy chief of the Justice Department's public integrity section before leaving the department in 1992; he then became a top official in the Clinton presidential transition following the 1992 election. He was a special counsel to the House Ethics Committee in 1997 as it investigated allegations that former House speaker Newt Gingrich used tax-exempt money for partisan purposes. Gingrich was fined $300,000 and was reprimanded by the House.

Cole is now a partner at the Washington law firm Bryan Cave.

It was unclear when a formal selection for the job might be announced. One issue likely to come up at any confirmation hearings for Cole is his private-sector work involving American International Group. Under a 2004 government settlement with the giant insurer, the Justice Department demanded that AIG name an independent monitor to report periodically to Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission about AIG's operations.

AIG tapped Cole for the job and, according to a Wall Street Journal report last year, paid Cole and his law firm about $20 million for that oversight effort, which included attending AIG board meetings. However, he reportedly was not assigned to review matters directly related to the company's near-collapse.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company