Don’t expect the nomination of B. Todd Jones for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to move too quickly through the Senate. Republicans plan to press for answers on questions they have raised on a couple of fronts.
“I’ve raised some questions about him, some of those related to his job at ATF and some of those related to his job in Minnesota,” said Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee.
Supporters of Jones — who has been the acting ATF director since 2011 and is also the U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota — argue that he has served in both posts with distinction and that he already been confirmed by the committee and the full Senate for the U.S. attorney post.
“I think Todd Jones would be very good,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a veteran member of the Judiciary Committee. “He’s been acting, he should be director. This nonsense should be stopped.”
A committee hearing on Jones isn’t expected until the GOP lawmakers say their concerns have been addressed, both Republican and Democratic committee aides said.
Grassley wants details on Jones’ involvement in an alleged deal that the Department of Justice struck with the city of St. Paul in which the city withdrew from a Supreme Court civil rights case in exchange for the federal government agreeing not to join a pair of housing-related lawsuits against the city. The GOP contends the suits had the potential of returning more than $180 million in damages to the U.S. Treasury.
“We want to understand what his role was,” said a GOP committee aide, adding that after receiving over 1,000 pages of documents on the matter, they are in the process of setting up the interview, which will be conducted by Grassley and members of both the House Judiciary and the Oversight and Government Reform committees.
Along with Jones, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, Tony West, and Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Tom Perez will also be interviewed. Republicans charge that all were involved.
Grassley was also critical of a July video message from Jones to ATF staff that he contends was construed as a threat to whistleblowers in the agency.
He is also concerned about a letter former Minneapolis Federal Bureau of Investigation director Donald E. Oswald sent to the committee expressing opposition to Jones’ nomination shortly after he was tapped by President Barack Obama last month.
In the letter Oswald calls Jones “an ineffective leader” and a “significant impediment for federal law enforcement to effectively protect the citizens of Minnesota from violent gang, drug and gun activities.”
In addition, Grassley also has issues with Jones’ refusal to discuss with his staff and before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee the controversial Operation Fast & Furious — a failed sting operation near the Mexican border that put guns in the hands of criminals.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.