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Senators want Rosenstein deputy to be U.S. attorney for Eastern District of Virginia

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Virginia’s two Democratic senators are recommending that Justice Department lawyer G. Zachary Terwilliger take over as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, a high-profile jurisdiction that is involved in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

If nominated and confirmed, he would replace acting U.S. attorney Tracy McCormick, who took over when Dana Boente was asked to resign last fall.

“We highly recommend Mr. Terwilliger for this important position,” Tim Kaine and Mark R. Warner wrote in a letter to the White House on Monday.

Virginia’s Eastern District often handles significant terrorism, espionage and public corruption cases. But since President Trump took office, the post has become more prominent and politically charged. The Eastern District is one of two courthouses where former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort faces charges related to his work for a Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine.

Terwilliger serves under Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who has been criticized by the president for his handling of the Russia investigation.

Before that, Terwilliger was an assistant U.S. attorney in the district he may soon lead, focused on gang violence and human trafficking. He is technically still working in the district but on detail to the deputy attorney general’s office.

“He has a great heart, a lot of passion, and he’s got tremendous integrity,” said Gene Rossi, a longtime federal prosecutor in Alexandria who is now in private practice. “He is in­cred­ibly organized, he’s in­cred­ibly focused, and he will be extremely fair as a head prosecutor.”

Terwilliger’s father, George Terwilliger, served as deputy attorney general under President George H.W. Bush.

The White House ultimately will nominate a U.S. attorney for the post, and that person must be confirmed by the Senate.

That process probably will be watched closely. Boente’s ouster in October came as a surprise, according to people close to him, and raised concern among Democrats in Congress.

Boente, who became U.S. attorney in 2015, served for a period as both acting attorney general and acting assistant attorney general under Trump. He has been interviewed by the special counsel’s office and turned over handwritten notes that could be evidence in the ongoing investigation into whether the president obstructed justice, according to people familiar with the matter.

Outside the Russia investigation, Virginia’s Eastern District is involved in several sensitive matters with international reach.

Two ex-CIA officers face charges related to handling of classified information. Prosecutors also are working on two complex terrorism cases, according to people familiar with both: that of an unnamed American citizen held in Iraq and a pair of former U.K. residents believed to be the remaining members of a cell that executed Western hostages. Should WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange or his associates face prosecution in the United States, they would also be tried in the Eastern District.

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