May 21, 2010 / 8:45 PM / 10 years ago

Obama to name defense lawyer to Justice Dept. job

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration plans to nominate James Cole, a defense lawyer who previously prosecuted public corruption cases, as deputy attorney general, a source familiar with the matter said Friday.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, the 57-year-old Cole would be in the No. 2 position at the Justice Department and play a key role in such issues as fighting financial crime and prosecuting terrorism suspects.

David Ogden, President Barack Obama’s first deputy attorney general, left the department early this year. Justice Department officials have said Ogden had a rocky relationship with Attorney General Eric Holder.

Holder has long known Cole, who had been a Justice Department official for 13 years before entering private law practice in Washington.

At the Justice Department, Cole served his last four years as deputy chief of the public integrity section, the same unit where Holder once worked. Cole tried a number of high-profile cases, including prosecutions of a member of Congress and a federal judge.

Cole also served as special counsel for the House Ethics Committee in its 1997 investigation of Speaker New Gingrich. In private practice, he has represented a number of companies, executives and politicians.

Cole’s appointment would be one of the expected changes in the top ranks of the Justice Department. Obama has nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy created by the upcoming retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens.

Reporting by James Vicini; Editing by Peter Cooney

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