Law enforcement and gun control groups backed Jones' nomination, but the specter
of opposition by the gun lobby held up the process until this week, when the
National Rifle Association announced that it was neutral on Jones' confirmation.
Grassley struggled till the end to block Jones' nomination, renewing his objections on the Senate floor Wednesday and urging his colleagues to stall until investigators closed the books on an ongoing probe into his tenure as U.S. attorney.
The federal Office of Special Counsel has investigated allegations that Jones retaliated against whistleblower Jeffrey Paulsen, an assistant U.S. attorney in Minnesota, after Paulsen raised concerns about Jones' management style. That case is still in mediation.
Grassley also sought to pry more information from Jones about "Fast and Furious," the gunrunning scandal that was the subject of a months-long congressional inquiry.
As part of the Patriot Act renewal in 2006, federal law changed in 2006 to require Senate confirmation of the ATF director. Gun rights advocates have objected to every nominee since, blocking attempts to win approval for a permanent director to lead the agency until Jones' confirmation Wednesday.
Jones earned his juris doctorate from the University of Minnesota in 1983, then went on active duty in the Marine Corps, where he served as a trial defense lawyer and prosecutor and saw combat duty during the Gulf War. He joined the U.S. attorney's office in the 1990s and was appointed U.S. attorney in 1998 by then-President Bill Clinton. He returned to the private sector in 2001, becoming a partner in the Twin Cities law firms of Greene Espel and later Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi. Ultimately, he returned to the role of U.S. attorney, this time under Obama.
On Wednesday, Tom Heffelfinger, former U.S. attorney in Minnesota, said Jones' confirmation is "good news."
"This was not and never has been a partisan political position," Heffelfinger said. "In fact the Senate failed to confirm Mike Sullivan, who was nominated for the same position by George W. Bush. This is a good day for our law enforcement community."
Michael Davis, chief federal judge in Minnesota, also lauded the Senate's action. "As a longtime friend of B. Todd Jones. ... I am personally gratified that he has been confirmed," Davis said. "The district of Minnesota has been well served by his tenure as U.S. attorney for two different presidents."
Don Oswald, special agent in charge of the Minneapolis FBI office from May 2011 to May 2012, now retired, was a critic of Jones, saying that he failed to support the prosecution of individuals involved in violent crime, gangs and drugs, an allegation disputed by others in the law enforcement community.
Wednesday night, Oswald didn't back down, saying: "The process has spoken. I think the information that was brought to light during the process informed the people of the type of manager that he was and I hope he is a better ATF director than he was a U.S. attorney."
Klobuchar, who said Wednesday she is "confident that [Jones] will serve the country well," has recommended that former Assistant U.S. Attorney Andy Luger succeed him.
Franken said he is confident Jones will provide the ATF with "valuable direction and leadership."
(c)2013 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
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Distributed by MCT Information Services
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