FIRST ON FOX – Sen. Tom Cotton is threatening to hold up Justice Department nominations over concerns that the Biden administration may not be representing U.S. Marshals who are being sued for actions they took defending the Portland federal courthouse in 2020.
“These courageous officers were attacked by left-wing street militants with weapons such as mortar fire, ball bearings, and blinding lasers,” Cotton, R-Ark., said in a letter addressed to Attorney General Merrick Garland. “A refusal to represent these Deputy Marshals would violate the Department’s long-standing practice – not to mention its moral duty – to defend law-enforcement officers when they’re sued for actions in the line of duty.”
The Portland federal courthouse was subject to months of attacks by activists protesting police brutality in 2020. It was one of the hottest flashpoints in the debate over law and order ahead of the presidential election.
In the wake of those attacks, the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund told Fox News it is representing four deputy U.S. Marshals who were sued by demonstrators, claiming one officer was outright denied legal defense by the DOJ.
“After careful review and consideration of the information currently available, I have determined that representation would not be in the interest of the United States. Accordingly, the request for representation is denied,” the rejection read.
Cotton gave the DOJ a deadline of 3 p.m. Tuesday to respond to the letter with a “satisfactory answer,” or else, he said, “I will be compelled to object to Department nominees both in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor.”
“The Department is reviewing Senator Cotton’s letter and will respond promptly,” a Justice Department spokesperson said. “The department currently represents or has paid for representation of over 70 federal employees who have been sued in connection with the events in Portland. Indeed, to date, the Department has denied legal representation for only one federal employee in these cases.”
One senator alone cannot completely block a presidential nominee from being confirmed. But because of the Senate rules, a single member can drag out debate for days or weeks on routine nominees that otherwise may be confirmed by unanimous consent.
Senate Republicans have already used their ability to slow down Biden’s nominees to significant effect. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, stood in the way of a slate of State and Treasury Department nominees in order to force a Senate vote on sanctions against Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Cruz’s bill did not succeed, but the vote forced the issue onto the Senate’s front burner ahead of a likely invasion of Ukraine by Russia.