The PJ Tatler

Obama Withdraws DOJ Civil Rights Nomination for Mumia Defender

The White House today withdrew the nomination of Debo Adegbile to lead the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice.

Nominated in January, Adegbile was rejected by the Senate in a March vote 47-52, with Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), John Walsh (Mont.), Chris Coons (Del.) and Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.) joining with Republicans.


It was the first cloture failure on a nomination after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) detonated the nuclear option and put a simple majority threshold in place.

Reid switched his “yes” vote to “no” at the last minute, allowing him to resurrect the nomination down the road.

Adegbile’s nomination was hotly contested because of his defense of cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. Adegbile was the director of litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund when it took up Abu-Jamal’s case on appeal.

Reid argued that Adegbile shouldn’t be punished for guilt by association because he “didn’t step into one courtroom on behalf of the murderer.”

President Obama lashed out at the Senate at the time, calling the nomination block “a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant.”

Despite the reserved ability to bring the nominee back to floor, Adegbile was scarcely mentioned in recent months.

Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R), whose New Hampshire strategy against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) focuses heavily on the president’s record, said in a statement that he was “pleased” Obama “has finally withdrawn” the nomination.


“His controversial representation of a convicted cop killer is offensive to law enforcement and victim’s rights groups, not only here in New Hampshire but around the country,” Brown said. “Just as troubling as President Obama’s nomination of Mr. Adegbile was Senator Shaheen’s support for it. This was another example of Senator Shaheen putting the President’s agenda ahead of doing what was right. Thankfully, a bipartisan majority of senators stood together to block consideration of this ill-conceived appointment.”

Adegbile has joined law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP.

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