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Former AG says Trump's delay in nominating U.S. attorney 'just nuts'

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Former Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday that West Michigan not having a Senate-confirmed federal prosecutor for 2.5 years is "just nuts," especially when Republicans control the White House and Senate. 

Holder, a Democrat who served under President Barack Obama, was referring to the Trump administration's decision to wait until two weeks ago to nominate anyone to serve as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan, which includes the Upper Peninsula. 

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

Trump tapped Michigan’s former House Speaker Tom Leonard for the post on Aug. 14.

"Not having a Senate-confirmed head of a U.S. attorney's office is a real major thing," Holder told The Detroit News after an appearance Tuesday in Detroit.

"The offices really can't focus in a way that with a Senate-confirmed U.S. attorney they can. Someone that comes in and sets priorities. There's an accountability that a confirmed person has that an acting person does not," Holder added.

"In the same way you see in Washington with all these acting heads. The fact that they don't have one for two and a half years... that's just nuts."

Holder couldn't recall any other time the position had not been filled by a Senate-confirmed nominee for more than six months. 

"Certainly not in the Obama administration. They control the Senate," Holder said, referring to the Republican Party. "That's nuts."

Michigan's Western District has been without a Senate-confirmed U.S. attorney since early 2017 when Democrat Pat Miles stepped down at the start of the Trump administration. 

Andrew Byerly Birge has since served as U.S. attorney in the district, having most recently been appointed by the U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids over a year ago.

Republican members of Michigan's congressional delegation expressed frustration earlier this year at the slow pace of nominations for key Michigan posts including the U.S. attorney position in West Michigan. 

Over 2.5 years into his term, Trump also has not yet nominated a U.S. marshal for the Western District.

His nominee for a vacant judgeship in the district, Michael Bogren, withdrew earlier this summer after some GOP senators objected. Another judicial nominee for Michigan's Eastern District, Stephanie Dawkins Davis, is awaiting consideration by the full Senate.

Trump this month selected a nominee for U.S. marshal in the Eastern District, Owen M. Cypher, who is currently a deputy marshal and senior judicial security inspector, according to the White House. 

The Senate confirmed Matthew Schneider as U.S. attorney for Michigan's Eastern District based in Detroit in January.