‘Hillbilly Elegy’ senator drags Jussie Smollett case into U.S. attorney fight

It appears Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, isn’t dealing in good faith, given shifting explanations for denying April Perry a vote to be Chicago’s next U.S. attorney, Lynn Sweet writes.

SHARE ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ senator drags Jussie Smollett case into U.S. attorney fight
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on the Senate floor Friday, trying for a third time to get Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, to allow a vote on Chicago U.S. Attorney nominee April Perry. In the background are flowers on the desk of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., whose death at age 90 was announced on Friday.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on the Senate floor Friday, trying for a third time to get Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, to allow a vote on U.S. attorney nominee April Perry. In the background are flowers on the desk of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., whose death at age 90 was announced Friday.

Senate floor video feed

WASHINGTON — More twists developed Friday in the fight to confirm April Perry to be the next U.S. attorney in Chicago, as it appears Republican Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio is not dealing in good faith, given his shifting explanations for denying her a vote.

Vance delivered misleading comments from the Senate floor on Wednesday when he said “I’m not the only person” holding up confirmation votes on Perry and one other U.S. attorney nominee. Turns out, as of Friday, Vance is the only senator objecting to a vote on Perry.

Vance has been blocking the confirmation of Perry and three other U.S. attorney nominees to protest the Justice Department prosecuting former President Donald Trump, saying it was nothing personal.

But on Friday, for the first time, he raised a specific complaint about Perry, discussing how she had worked for Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx while Foxx was accused of mishandling the case against actor Jussie Smollett.

The story so far: Vance pushes for separate votes

On Wednesday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill. went to the Senate floor for the second time to try to clear a path to confirm four U.S. attorneys: Perry, in the U.S. Northern District of Illinois; Todd Gee, in the Southern District of Mississippi; Tara K. McGrath, in the Southern District of California; and Rebecca Lutzko, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.

Durbin wanted to use a time-saving tool called “unanimous consent,” which does not require a recorded roll call.

Every senator has the power to put a hold on a nominee by objecting to using the unanimous consent procedure for confirmation.

Vance, a freshman known as the author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” said in exchange for lifting his hold, he wanted separate votes for the four. Though the Senate usually does not require roll calls to confirm U.S. attorneys, Durbin made the concession.

Vance then revealed, “I’m not the only person that’s holding some of these nominations.” He said he would release his hold for Gee and McGrath - but “I can’t release the hold” for the others.

What happened Friday: Vance cites Smollett case

That Wednesday deal set the stage for Friday’s votes to confirm McGrath and Gee on separate roll calls. Perry and Lutzko remained in limbo.

Later in the day, Durbin went to the Senate floor to try for the third time.

Durbin noted that the Senate, before the Biden administration, last required a roll call vote for a U.S. attorney in 1975. During the Trump years, the Senate Democrats allowed all 85 of Trump’s U.S. attorney nominees to be confirmed on unanimous consent.

Then there was this surprise over the supposed hold from another senator. Durbin said, “It turns out there is no one else. He’s the only objector.”

Vance then spoke, offering a new reason to block Perry.

Perry’s nomination is “troublesome” Vance said, because she “served as chief ethics officer in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office during the Jussie Smollett hate crime hoax.” Perry resigned from Foxx’s office after Foxx declined to take her advice about the handling of the staged hate crime.

The Foxx-Smollett scandal never came up during Perry’s confirmation hearing, and Durbin called implicating Perry in the Smollett case “unfair.”

Vance chastised Durbin for being “hell-bent” on coming to the Senate floor seeking the confirmation vote.

To be continued ...

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