DOJ Nominee Withdraws After Backlash From Conservative Senators

President Trump’s pick to serve as third in command at the Justice Department, overseeing health care and immigration cases, withdrew her name from consideration Thursday evening amid backlash from conservative lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Jessie Liu leads more than 300 prosecutors as the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., the nation’s largest such office. As an Asian-American woman, she would have added a measure of diversity to the Justice Department’s senior ranks — as well as serious prosecution chops. The Justice Department said Liu will remain in her current post and advise Attorney General William Barr as the head of a committee of other top federal prosecutors.

Two sources told NPR that the attorney general got into a “shouting match” with Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee, a key figure in opposing Liu’s bid. A spokeswoman for Barr declined comment on the heated conversation with a lawmaker from his own political party. For his part, Barr issued a statement filled with praise for Liu and insisting, “We will all benefit from her universally-regarded expertise and dedication to public service” in her role as an adviser to him.

Four lawyers familiar with the matter said the stumbling block for Liu was a broader concern about her conservatism — specifically, her stance on women’s reproductive rights. Interest groups had begun drafting letters to senators about their fears that Liu would not support restrictions on abortion. Another key factor: Earlier in her career, Liu had an affiliation with the National Association of Women Lawyers, which sent a letter opposing the nomination of Justice Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.