Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) placed holds on all Department of Justice nominees Tuesday after it failed to respond to the lawmaker's letter concerning allegations that the Biden administration is not representing U.S. Marshalls sued over their actions in defending the Portland federal courthouse amid Black Lives Matter riots in 2020.
Eight nominees – four U.S. attorney nominations awaiting votes in the Senate, two U.S. attorneys awaiting votes in the Judiciary Committee and two U.S. Marshals awaiting votes in committee – are now held up by Cotton's recent move.
The GOP senator sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday asking that the DOJ confirm that it is representing the U.S. Marshals or funding their private counsel, or to "explain why on earth you're not."
"These courageous officers were attacked by left-wing street militants with weapons such as mortar fire, ball bearings, and blinding lasers," Cotton wrote in the letter. "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 vowed to block the department's nominees if he did not receive a "satisfactory" response by 3 p.m. Tuesday, and now, the senator is moving forward with his threat to object to DOJ nominees.
The Arkansas lawmaker by himself cannot block a presidential nominee indefinitely but Senates rules do allow him to delay confirmation of nominees for days or weeks when they otherwise could have been confirmed by unanimous consent.
The DOJ said in a statement Monday to the New York Post that Cotton's letter is being reviewed and that the department is representing several federal employees facing lawsuits over the Portland riots.
"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 said. "Indeed, to date, the department has denied legal representation for only one federal employee in these cases."
But according to Fox News, at least three U.S. Marshals say that they had to seek private legal representation because the DOJ has not yet made a final decision on their cases.
And the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund told Fox News on Monday that one marshall it was representing had outright been denied a legal defense 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 Portland federal courthouse became the site of nightly clashes between rioters and law enforcement following the May 2020 death of George Floyd, leading a number of demonstrators to file lawsuits against U.S. Marshalls for alleged excessive use of force.