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The Honorable Sheldon Whitehouse
United States Senator
Kevin O'Connor and Gregory Katsas Considered for Department of Justice Appointments
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) today chaired a Senate Judiciary Committee to consider two nominations to fill openings in the Department of Justice. Kevin O'Conner, currently the United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut and former Chief of Staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, has been nominated to be the Associate Attorney General; and Gregory Katsas, the Acting Associate Attorney General and the Principle Deputy Associate Attorney general, has been nominated to be the Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division. Whitehouse's opening statement, as prepared, is below.
Today, the Committee will hear from two witnesses: Kevin O'Connor, nominated to be the Associate Attorney General, and Gregory Katsas, nominated to be the Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division.
Indeed, the nominees before the Committee today are the ninth and tenth, respectively, to have confirmation hearings before this Committee since Mr. Gonzales stepped down, a list which includes nominees to be Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, Associate Attorney General, and three Assistant Attorneys General. I commend Chairman Leahy for his determination to help fill these vacancies so that Attorney General Mukasey can have his leadership team intact and so that the Department's credibility can be restored. Whether that happens will depend, in large part, on whether the nominees are committed to operating in a manner different from the approach of the Gonzales Justice Department - in which they both served.
Second, this hearing is a reminder of the vital role of Congressional oversight of the Department of Justice. It was thanks to this Committee's hard work last year that the American people learned of U.S. Attorneys fired for political reasons, a hiring process corrupted by politics, and a policy that allowed hundreds of people at the White House to have case specific conversations with dozens of DOJ lawyers. Attorney General Mukasey has taken some steps to right the ship - but there is much more to be done, and Congress will play an instrumental role in ensuring that progress is made.