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Tom Cotton Pledges to Block Biden's DOJ Nominees Over 'Refusal' to Defend U.S. Marshalls Sued in BLM Riots

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool

GOP Sen. Tom Cotton (AR) on Monday vowed to block the Department of Justice's nominees over claims that the Biden administration may not be representing U.S. Marshalls facing lawsuits for their actions in defending the Portland federal courthouse during the 2020 Black Lives Matter riots.


In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Cotton said he was made aware that the DOJ may not be funding the defense for the "courageous officers" who were "attacked by left-wing street militias with weapons such as mortar fire, ball bearings, and blinding lasers."

"A refusal to represent these Deputy Marshals would violate the Department’s long-standing practice — not to mention its moral duty — to defend law-enforcement officers when they're sued for actions in the line of duty," Cotton wrote. "I hope these reports are mistaken."

He added that the DOJ had until 3 p.m. Tuesday to confirm that it is either representing the marshals or paying for their private counsel, or to "explain why on earth you're not."

Cotton said that if he does not receive a "timely and satisfactory" response, he will "be compelled to object to Department nominees both in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor." 

In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in May 2020, Portland's federal courthouse became the site of nightly attacks from Antifa and BLM rioters.

Following the violence in the city, a number of lawsuits were filed against U.S. Marshalls for alleged excessive use of force. 

But the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, which represents four deputy marshalls sued by protestors, told Fox News that one officer was outright denied legal representation by the DOJ.


"After careful review and consideration of the information currently available, I have determined that representation would not be in the interest of the United States. Accordingly, the request for representation is denied," the DOJ wrote.

The DOJ said in a statement to the New York Post that Cotton's request is currently under review and will receive a timely response.

The department also explained that it is representing several federal employees facing lawsuits over the Portland riots and that only one individual was denied a legal defense.

"The department currently represents or has paid for representation of over 70 federal employees who have been sued in connection with the events in Portland," a DOJ spokesperson told the Post. "Indeed, to date, the department has denied legal representation for only one federal employee in these cases."

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