Watch CBSN Live

Obama Appoints AIG Consultant at Justice Dept.


Updated Dec. 30

President Obama sidestepped Senate Republicans Wednesday and appointed an independent consultant to the bailed-out American International Group as deputy attorney general.

Mr. Obama, vacationing in Hawaii with his family, appointed James Cole and five other officials, mostly ambassadors to foreign nations, using his authority to do so while the Senate is in recess.

Cole was nominated during the spring for the No. 2 post at Justice, but Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, opposed the nomination.

Cole's nomination came up in talks between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell during the closing days of the lame-duck Congress last week, when Republicans agreed to let at least 19 non-controversial judicial nominees win confirmation. Democrats will have a smaller majority when the new Senate meets next week.

Cole worked as an independent consultant for AIG before its collapse in 2008. Senate Republicans complained that confidentiality agreements blocked them from getting answers about what Cole did for the company, The Associated Press reported.

Cole won't be a stranger at Justice. The White House said he worked there for 13 years, including working as deputy chief of the department's Public Integrity Section, before entering private practice in 1992.

His appointment will last through the end of 2011, when the new Congress finishes the first half of its term.

Mr. Obama's other appointments Wednesday were:

  • William Boarman as public printer of the United States
  • Matthew Bryza as ambassador to Azerbaijan
  • Norman Eisen as ambassador to the Czech Republic
  • Robert Stephen Ford as ambassador to Syria
  • Francis Ricciardone Jr. as ambassador to Turkey

Update: Republican Rep. Peter King (N.Y.), incoming chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, issued a statement Thursday denouncing Mr. Obama's appointment of Cole.

"The appointment indicates that the Obama Administration continues to try to implement its dangerous policies of treating Islamic terrorism as a criminal matter," King said. "The Justice Department needs a strong Deputy Attorney General who understands that our country remains at war with Islamic terrorists who continually plot deadly attacks against Americans, not a left-wing ideologue who places terrorists in the same categories as drug peddlers."