cloudy
Monday October 15th, 2018 11:48AM

Senate confirms justice official who worked for Russian bank

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Wednesday approved President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Justice Department's criminal division following a yearlong confirmation process.

Brian Benczkowski was narrowly confirmed as an assistant attorney general with a 51-48 vote. Democrats strongly opposed the nomination, partly because of his work while in private practice for a leading Russian bank. Democrats said his Russian ties could complicate special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign.

Democrats also contended that Benczkowski did not have enough experience in federal courtrooms to run the criminal division. The position is one of the most significant in the Justice Department, with the assistant attorney general having oversight of criminal cases involving public corruption, financial fraud, computer hacking, drug trafficking and other major crimes.

Benczkowski sought to downplay those concerns at his confirmation hearing last year, saying, "Being head of the criminal division in the first instance is principally a management and leadership job." He noted that he had held multiple Justice Department posts, including serving as chief of staff to former Attorney General Michael Mukasey in the Bush administration.

"One of the things that I learned in the course of those previous positions is how important it is to consult and listen to the career lawyers in the department," Benczkowski said.

Benczkowski, who also served as an aide to Jeff Sessions when he was a U.S. senator, has most recently been a partner at Kirkland & Ellis law firm and a Justice Department official.

Sessions, now attorney general, welcomed Benczkowski to the job Wednesday, praising his diverse experience.

"This will be the sixth senior position Brian has held at the Department, and we are fortunate to have someone with his breadth of experience and strong leadership skills willing to serve again. At a time like this — with surging violent crime and an unprecedented drug epidemic — this position is especially important," Sessions said in a statement.

Benczkowski attracted attention throughout the confirmation process. He told members of Congress that he had previously represented Alfa Bank, which drew attention last year after U.S. news media widely reported a possible server connection between the bank and the Trump Organization. The bank says it was targeted by hackers who created a fake cyber trail to suggest extensive links with businesses owned by Trump.

That experience continued to concern Democrats on Wednesday. In a floor speech just before the vote, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said Benczkowski's inexperience alone should be disqualifying. But he said he is extremely concerned about his ties to Russia, which he said "could enable him to directly interfere" with Mueller's investigation.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Online Supreme Court News
© Copyright 2018 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Neo-Nazi trial puts spotlight on fate of migrants in Germany
The end of a high-profile trial over a string of neo-Nazi killings has raised fresh questions about the treatment of migrants in Germany
2:59PM ( 12 minutes ago )
Report: NASA needs backup plan as US crew launches slip
Report says NASA needs a backup plan for getting astronauts to space, as more delays likely for new commercial crew capsules
2:56PM ( 15 minutes ago )
Senate calls for more say on tariffs in bipartisan vote
Lawmakers have gone on record to express their frustration with the Trump administration's growing use of tariffs
2:55PM ( 16 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Alabama gov: Jail food funds can't go into sheriffs' pockets
Following criticism that some Alabama sheriffs profited large sums of money by skimping on jailhouse meals, Gov. Kay Ivey says the state will no longer give jail food funds to "sheriffs personally"
2:34PM ( 38 minutes ago )
New EPA acting chief reassures agency's staffers
The new acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency is meeting with staffers to set the way forward for the troubled agency
2:25PM ( 46 minutes ago )
No shove, but Trump body language speaks to frosty relations
He didn't shove anyone this time, but President Donald Trump's body language at NATO summit suggests his relationships with key U.S. allies aren't exactly buddy-buddy.
2:22PM ( 50 minutes ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Ryan issues warning to ex-FBI lawyer defying subpoena
House Speaker Paul Ryan is warning former FBI lawyer Lisa Page that she must appear for a private interview
12:54PM ( 2 hours ago )
Kavanaugh works Capitol Hill, Dems warn of rightward tilt
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh returned to Capitol Hill Wednesday for a whirlwind round of meetings with key Republican senators as Democrats ramp up their efforts to block his confirmation
10:53AM ( 4 hours ago )
Kavanaugh's views of presidential power drawing questions
Kavanaugh's views on whether a president can be drawn into criminal or civil cases could be a hot point in his confirmation hearing
1:59AM ( 13 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Trump sought 'the best' in hunt for Supreme Court nominee
President Donald Trump returned to the same question over and over as he mulled his next Supreme Court nomination: 'Who's the best here?"
6:38PM ( 20 hours ago )
Judge puts blame on Trump, Congress for immigration crisis
The Trump administration's effort to detain migrant families together for long terms collided with a formidable obstacle in a Los Angeles judge
6:18PM ( 20 hours ago )
Brett Kavanaugh announcement lags behind Neil Gorsuch pick
New Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is no match for predecessor Neil Gorsuch, at least as a television draw
6:08PM ( 21 hours ago )
AP Online Supreme Court News
Neo-Nazi trial puts spotlight on fate of migrants in Germany
The end of a high-profile trial over a string of neo-Nazi killings has raised fresh questions about the treatment of migrants in Germany
2:59PM ( 12 minutes ago )
Report: NASA needs backup plan as US crew launches slip
Report says NASA needs a backup plan for getting astronauts to space, as more delays likely for new commercial crew capsules
2:56PM ( 15 minutes ago )
Senate calls for more say on tariffs in bipartisan vote
Lawmakers have gone on record to express their frustration with the Trump administration's growing use of tariffs
2:55PM ( 17 minutes ago )
Singer John Mellencamp awarded Woody Guthrie Prize
Singer and songwriter John Mellencamp has been awarded the Woody Guthrie Prize
2:50PM ( 22 minutes ago )
Shavonte Zellous hits 3 at buzzer, Liberty beat Sun 79-76
Shavonte Zellous banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift the New York Liberty past the Connecticut Sun 79-76
2:50PM ( 22 minutes ago )