February 16, 2018 / 12:17 AM / 2 years ago

Senate confirms Demers to head Justice Department national security

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed John Demers to head the Justice Department’s national security division, after a Republican senator lifted a hold he had put on some of the department’s nominees in protest against the government’s marijuana policy.

U.S. Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, where marijuana is legal, said in a statement that he had lifted the hold “as a show of good faith for continued positive conversations” with Justice Department officials on marijuana enforcement priorities.

Any U.S. senator can put a hold on a nominee, delaying the confirmation vote.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions welcomed Demers’ confirmation in a statement. He did not refer to the disagreement with Gardner.

Sessions last month rescinded a policy implemented by the administration of former President Barack Obama that had eased enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that legalized the drug. Sessions also gave federal prosecutors wide latitude to pursue criminal charges.

“I have decided to lift my holds on the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, United States Attorneys, and United States Marshals as an act of good faith,” Gardner said. “My holds on all other DOJ nominees will remain in place as discussions continue.”

Demers, an attorney for Boeing Co who worked at the Justice Department under former President George W. Bush, told lawmakers in October that he would support Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.

Sessions said the national security division “plays a crucial role in protecting Americans from the threat of terrorism, and protecting our national security from compromise by state-sponsored espionage, cyber intruders and the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.”

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Writing by Mohammad Zargham, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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