President Donald Trump withdrew a high-profile Treasury Department nomination over the nominee’s old job, as the top federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., reports indicate.
Jessie Liu, the former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, was scheduled for a confirmation hearing Thursday for her nomination to become Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Crimes. But Trump abruptly pulled the nomination Tuesday night.
Now, multiple outlets report that the change was a result of Liu’s old job, where she supervised a number of politically sensitive cases including those against Trump confidante Roger Stone and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said in a hearing Wednesday that “it appears this is another stop on the President’s personal retribution tour; an attempt to ensure that [Liu] did not come before the Banking Committee tomorrow to answer, under oath, questions about those prosecutorial decisions.”
Trump nominated Liu to be U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia in 2017 and she served in the role for more than two years. On Jan. 6, she was nominated to the Treasury Department post. But before she was confirmed for the new job, Attorney General Bill Barr announced on Jan. 30 that she would be replaced as U.S. Attorney by his adviser Timothy Shea.
Now, with her Treasury Department nomination cancelled, Liu’s future in the administration is unclear.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday night that Trump had been extensively lobbied by people upset with Liu’s work as U.S. attorney, particularly her handling of cases that originated in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian election meddling.
One unnamed source identified a Republican Senate staffer upset with Liu’s handling of the case against Flynn: Barbara Ledeen, who was named in the Mueller report as a source for Flynn in his 2016-era search for emails hosted on Hillary Clinton’s private server. Ledeen’s husband also wrote a book with Flynn, the Post noted.
Ledeen denied involvement to the Post.
“I’m a Senate staffer,” she said. “I can’t lobby either the Senate or the White House. I’m kind of amazed my name came up in this.”
“Somebody likes to throw around my name,” she added.
CNN reported Wednesday that, though Liu was not the U.S. Attorney when career prosecutors recommended Monday that Stone serve 7–9 years in prison, that recommended sentence ultimately moved Trump to pull Liu’s nomination.
On Tuesday, top Justice Department officials overruled career prosecutors and revised Stone’s recommended prison sentence downward. Four career prosecutors withdrew from the case Tuesday, and one resigned entirely from the Justice Department.
In addition to Liu’s handling of the cases that stemmed from Mueller’s probe, CNN reported, the case of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe also played a role in her withdrawn nomination.
Liu’s office had for months investigated McCabe’s alleged lack of candor to the Justice Department’s inspector general regarding a 2016 leak, but the former FBI official has never been charged criminally.
In the White House’s eyes, Liu had not involved herself closely enough in the politically sensitive cases, CNN reported, citing an unnamed source familiar with Trump and other officials’ thinking.