The Justice Department is said to be preparing a shortlist, for the moment, of people it is recommending to the White House to replace Eric
Holder as attorney general, our colleague Sari Horwitz reports.
Most every lawyer in town, if not the country, seems to have been mentioned for the job. But we’re hearing that the fourth-ranking official in the Justice Department, Solicitor General Don Verrilli, appears to top the list.
Verrilli is a former deputy White House counsel. He’s smart — many say “brilliant.” He’s well liked by President Obama, and he was confirmed by the Senate three years ago on a 72-to-16 vote. And one of those “aye” votes, as our colleague Ruth Marcus has noted, was from Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), now the majority-leader-in-waiting.
Tony West, who just left the department’s No. 3 post, associate attorney general, had been high on the list, but his new job as general counsel at PepsiCo could be an obstacle.
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 aforementioned McConnell said that 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’re guessing that’s a “no.”)
The fourth person on the list, a knowledgeable source said, “is a woman,” but no amount of cajoling would get us beyond that. That could be Loretta Lynch, the 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 in May for an uber law firm job.
One problem that Ruemmler 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 Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) argue that the panelists don’t need to spend a lot of time preparing for a hearing, and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could move for cloture.
Also, if Ruemmler is the nominee and she doesn’t get through in the lame-duck, chances are that incoming chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) probably would like to see some White House documents about Benghazi, the IRS and so on.
All of the above notwithstanding, a couple of decades of covering this stuff has taught us that, until the president and the pick are in front of the cameras, anything can happen.
On Tuesday, the day before she resigned as director of the Secret Service, Julia Pierson told a House committee that the agency was 550 employees below its “optimal level.”
And although Pierson did not equate the short staffing with her organization’s massive security blunders, some found it curious that she would bring a dozen Secret Service staffers with her to Capitol Hill when the Secret Service is so strained (and in desperate need of oversight).
Congressional aides tell us that Pierson had asked the House sergeant at arms if she could bring 18 of her people to the hearing before the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. She ultimately brought 12.
Edwin Donovan, the Secret Service spokesman, confirmed that Pierson had the chiefs of staff and deputy chiefs of staff for the uniformed division and for congressional affairs, and the assistant directors of each of the directorates, which includes Donovan. According to the Secret Service organizational chart, there are eight directorates.
Donovan did not say why Pierson needed such a large entourage. The hearing, where Pierson was grilled over recent security lapses, lasted nearly four hours.
Most high-level officials who testify before Congress will bring three to seven staffers along, according to a congressional aide. Asked if a dozen or more would be considered a lot, the aide responded: “Holy smokes! That’s wow. VP doesn’t carry that much.”
If you got a campaign-
donation solicitation e-mail from the Democrats in recent days, you might assume the world is nearing its end.
But no, it was just the end of the last quarter before Election Day.
With Democrats incapable of taking back the House and likely to lose the Senate, the campaign committees are in full Chicken Little mode. One message from the Democratic Governors Association even saw a “Dem-pocalypse.” E-mail after e-mail foretells terrible outcomes avoided by your checkbook.
According to our colleague Ed O’Keefe, the doomsday messages are working. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has outraised its GOP counterpart by roughly $33 million this cycle, in part because of online contributions coaxed by the e-mails.
But why do they work?
We reached out to several psychologists to see what this tells us about the human psyche. Their conclusion? We’re a negatively inspired bunch.
“Loss is simply more impactful than gain. Loss can even cause trauma, which can permanently alter one’s life; there is no equivalent for gain. People know this intuitively, and so do the campaign managers and others whose job it is to manipulate the masses,” said Robert Epstein, the former editor in chief of Psychology Today.
Ingrid Haas, a professor of political science and psychology at the University of Nebraska, agreed that evoking negative emotions can be “very motivating.”
But Haas said one way to rouse people with positive feelings is to use messages of “hope.” (Remember Obama 2008?) Telling people that things aren’t as great as they could be, but that there’s hope for the future, could also spur action, she said.
Democrats have gone negative, warning of dire outcomes and preying on their supporters’ disdain for Republicans in Congress. The Republicans do it, too, but Democrats have really embraced their underdog status, going so far as to suggest “all hope is lost” unless . . .
So maybe the e-mail we got from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday night — subject line: “we.will.fail” — will succeed in getting the Democrats to their quarterly fundraising goal? If not that e-mail, then definitely the one an hour later from the DCCC with the ominous subject line “Terrible News.” That one warns that “if we can’t fight these new Republican attacks, our hopes of winning control of Congress will end TONIGHT.”
Twitter: @KamenInTheLoop, @ColbyItkowitz