The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Heading to the shortlist to replace Attorney General Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during an interview at the Justice Department in Washington on Sept. 16. (Susan Walsh/AP)
Placeholder while article actions load

The Justice Department is said to be preparing a short­list, for the moment, of people it is recommending to the White House to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder.

Most every lawyer in town — if not the country — seems to have been mentioned for the job. As former Holder Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller tweeted just after Holder’s announcement:

But we’re hearing that Solicitor General (the No. 4 slot at the Justice Department) Don Verrilli — formerly deputy White House counsel — may be atop the list.

He’s smart — many say “brilliant” — well-liked by Obama and was confirmed by the Senate three years ago on a 72-16 vote. And one of those “aye” votes, as our colleague Ruth Marcus pointed out, was from Majority-Leader-in-waiting Sen. Mitch McConnell. (R-Ky.)

Tony West, who just left Justice to be general counsel at Pepsi, and had served in the No. 3 post of associate attorney general, had been high on the list, but his new job may have been an obstacle to his selection.

Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who was assistant AG for civil rights until he moved to Labor last year, is also on the list, but he could spark a major battle in the Senate. He was confirmed last year on a party-line vote, and the aforesaid McConnell said: “Tom Perez is more than just some left-wing ideologue – he’s a left-wing ideologue who appears perfectly willing to bend the rules to achieve his ends.”(So we’d guess McConnell might vote no.)

The fourth person on the list, a knowledgeable source said, “is a woman,” but no amount of cajoling would get us beyond that. It may be Loretta Lynch, current and former (1999-2001) U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Or more likely it’s former White House counsel Kathy Ruemmler, who’s highly regarded by Obama but left D.C. in May for an uber law firm job.

One problem she faces is that she’s never been confirmed by the Senate, which may make it hard to get her through the Senate during the post-election lame-duck session scheduled in November.

Someone already confirmed for a job by the Senate Judiciary Committee would help chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) argue that they don’t need to spend a lot of time preparing for a hearing, and Reid could move for cloture.

Also, if Ruemmler is the nominee, and if she doesn’t get through in the lame duck, likely incoming chairman Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) probably would want to see some White House documents regarding Benghazi, the IRS and so on. All the above notwithstanding, a couple decades of covering this stuff has taught us that, until Obama and the pick are in front of the cameras, anything can happen.