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Rookie judge to preside over Benghazi trial

Casey Cooper is new to the bench, but he’s well-connected

Just three months into his tenure on the federal bench, and before his formal investiture ceremony later this week, newly minted — but well-connected — U.S. District Judge Christopher “Casey” Cooper has been handed one of the most high-profile and politically sensitive American terrorism cases in recent years, our colleague Ann Marimow reports.

Cooper, who was confirmed by the Senate in March, has been randomly assigned by the court’s selection system to preside over the U.S. government’s case against Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspected ringleader in the deadly attacks on U.S. outposts in Benghazi, Libya.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

“He can handle it. Casey didn’t come from academia or a corporate boardroom. He came from the trial bar, and he will be quite capable,” said William Jeffress, a partner at Cooper’s former law firm who is also his father-in-law.

Cooper, 47, was part of the Obama administration’s transition team and is one of the more connected people in D.C. legal circles, Marimow notes. His wife, Amy Jeffress, worked at the Justice Department as a national security adviser to the attorney general. She previously ran the national security section of the U.S. attorney’s office that has charged Khattala, and mentored the lead prosecutor on the case, Michael DiLorenzo.

When Cooper was an undergraduate at Yale, his roommate and close friend was John Rice, whose sister is now President Obama’s national security adviser. Susan Rice’s controversial television appearances in the days after the Benghazi attacks helped fuel criticism that the Obama administration was trying to play down suspicions of terrorist involvement in the assault that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.

(John Rice played basketball at Yale with one of Cooper’s new U.S. District Court colleagues, Judge James Boasberg.)

Despite Cooper’s administration connections, Khattala could take some solace in Cooper’s ties to the defense bar. With his father-in-law, Cooper successfully defended senior Saudi officials in a lawsuit brought by families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

And Jonathan Jeffress, Cooper’s brother-in-law, is a longtime federal public defender in Washington.

Holder’s Nordic trek

Washington is bracing for the first brutal heat wave of the summer, with temperatures near 100 degrees expected this week. And if the heat and humidity weren’t bad enough, our hard-working Congress is back working the same old, same old gridlock.

But Attorney General Eric Holder, who seems to be on the road a bit (he was in Athens just two weeks ago), won’t be sweltering.

On Tuesday, he’s going to be in . . . wait for it . . . Oslo! As in Norway, where temps are expected to be in the high 70s — though there will be some rain.

Holder is scheduled to have a 30-minute bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Erna Solberg, followed by a joint news conference.

But that’s not all. Holder’s going to meet with Norway’s justice minister, Anders Anundsen, and then will be headed to the U.S. ambassador’s residence (though nominee for ambassador, hotelier and mega-bundler George Tsunis, won’t be there. He’s still hoping to be confirmed despite his historic performance at his hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee).

Holder is to “deliver remarks” at the residence, though the schedule doesn’t say to whom.

On Wednesday he heads to London for the annual meeting of the famed “Quintet.” No, not the starting five for the San Antonio Spurs — these are the attorneys general for the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. (Forecast there is highs in the high 60s, though rain Thursday.)

Loop Fans may recall his week-long trip last year to New Zealand, home of the Hobbit Shire, for a one-day meeting of the Quintet. (And who can forget his stop-by in Morocco last October on the set of Showtime’s “Homeland,” where he chatted with actor Damian Lewis?)

Holder’s schedule listed no public events for Thursday, though the Quints will take much of the day. But maybe there’ll be time to take in a show before he heads home Friday.

Following the money

Nick Rubin was 10 days into a month-long high school trip to China when he decided to come home last week.

And not because he was homesick or got tired of dumplings.

The Seattle 16-year-old spent the better part of the past year building a database of members of Congress and their campaign contributors. It went live in June and began generating considerable buzz online. He wanted to be stateside to help promote it.

Here’s how it works: Once you download his plug-in, which he calls “Greenhouse,” you can hover your mouse over any lawmaker’s name that shows up in any online story and a pop-up scorecard appears. (For the download, go to

Did we mention he’s 16?

“I hope they use it when reading their political news,” Nick told the Loop. “Hopefully people will learn for themselves the influence of money behind these [policy] decisions. The money story behind the news story is the real story.”

Self-taught in computer coding, Nick spent 10 months building “Greenhouse” using campaign finance data available from to show what industries give to which candidates. For each politician, Nick’s program also shows the percentage of the contributions that come from individuals giving less than $200.

For instance, only 4.8 percent of contributions to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are from small donors. The same goes for outgoing Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.). The motto of the site? “Some are red. Some are blue. All are green.”

— With Colby Itkowitz

Twitter: @KamenInTheLoop, @ColbyItkowitz

Colby Itkowitz is the lead anchor of the Inspired Life blog. She previously covered the quirks of national politics and the federal government.

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