President Trump on Wednesday tapped a high-level Justice Department official, Robert K. Hur, to lead the Maryland U.S. attorney's office where he was a longtime federal prosecutor.
If confirmed, Hur will take over one of the country's busiest U.S. attorney's offices, which has a reputation for handling sophisticated cases involving political corruption, white-collar fraud and vast gang conspiracies that drive violent crime.
Hur has worked closely with Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein at Justice Department headquarters and in Maryland and was previously a special assistant to now-FBI Director Christopher A. Wray.
Hur, who is 44 and lives in Silver Spring, was among seven U.S. attorney nominations the White House announced Wednesday.
Rosenstein, the former U.S. attorney for Maryland and Hur's boss, had high praise for Hur after the announcement.
"Rob Hur is a brilliant lawyer who consistently demonstrates exceptional civility, professionalism and humility," Rosenstein said in a statement. "As Maryland's next United States Attorney, he will maintain the high standards of the office, coordinate effectively with our partners, and bring renewed energy to reducing violent crime and achieving other priorities."
Former colleagues from the U.S. attorney's office in Maryland described Hur as well-liked and humble despite his impressive legal credentials and said he has the right combination of experience and charisma to take the helm of the office based in Baltimore.
"He's highly intelligent, ethical and unwavering in his pursuit of justice, but he also has a great sense of humor and is not afraid to be compassionate and understands the human side of a case," said Jonathan Lenzner, a former federal prosecutor in Maryland who worked closely with Hur.
As an assistant U.S. attorney, Hur prosecuted cases including bank fraud conspiracies and those involving the MS-13 gang. In the bank fraud case, for instance, he illustrated the real-world impact of the crime for the jury by bringing in elderly account holders to testify.
Bill Brennan, a longtime Maryland defense attorney who has tried cases prosecuted by Hur, said in a case involving identity fraud that could have had national security implications, Hur showed discretion when handling the sensitive matter.
"He's a very competent, diligent prosecutor," Brennan said. "He can tell the good cases from the bad cases. The people of Maryland are in good shape."
A graduate of Harvard College and Stanford Law School, Hur started his career as a law clerk to then-Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.
Before becoming an aide to Rosenstein earlier this year as principal associate deputy attorney general, Hur was a partner at King & Spalding LLP in Washington, handling criminal and regulatory cases before federal agencies including the Justice Department and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
At the Justice Department, Hur worked on cases involving counterterrorism and corporate fraud for Wray, who was then assistant attorney general in charge of the department's criminal division.
Hur's return to Maryland would put him in charge of more than 80 assistant U.S. attorneys and an additional 80 support staffers. Last week, the office had five jury trials going at once, unusually busy for the office known for taking on complex and interesting investigations.
Notable cases out of the office include the takedown of former Prince George's county executive Jack Johnson for bribery, mass corruption among Maryland correctional officers and gang members conducting business from prison, and the current scandal accusing former Maryland legislators of taking cash for votes expanding liquor sales.
Many local lawyers said the next U.S. attorney has "big shoes to fill" with Rosenstein as predecessor.
Rosenstein led the office for 12 years, building a reputation as a respected, bipartisan prosecutor who was able to withstand changes in Republican and Democratic administrations in Maryland. Rosenstein later became a controversial figure in his new role as deputy U.S. attorney general this year, with the White House saying a memo he penned factored into Trump's dismissal of former FBI director James B. Comey.
In a joint statement, Maryland Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both Democrats, said they plan to back Hur's nomination.
"We look forward to supporting Mr. Hur's nomination and working with him should he be confirmed by the Senate," the senators said in a joint statement. "We are confident that Mr. Hur can fill the large shoes Mr. Rosenstein has left."