Is Barack Obama set to become the next Attorney General? Former President could be on his way to the Supreme Court

Douglas Kmiec who served in Reagan and Bush Sr administrations said while Obama's appointment as AG will be unprecedented, it will also be necessary


                            Is Barack Obama set to become the next Attorney General? Former President could be on his way to the Supreme Court
President-elect Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama (Getty Images)

President-elect Joe Biden has picked a number of officials to fill top posts of his incoming administration but he is yet to nominate his attorney-general. The Democrat is reportedly facing pressure to pick a diverse leadership for the justice department and the more he takes time to finalize it, the pressure will be growing. Biden had initially thought about announcing his AG pick by Christmas Day but it has now stretched into 2021. Generally, an incoming president chooses the AG among his first Cabinet picks but this time, it has been an exception. According to CNN, the delay has also heightened the calls for Biden to focus on the issues of diversity and racial injustice through his selection of the head of the justice department.

The scenario has also given birth to an interesting possibility. Should Biden pick former president Barack Obama as his AG -- a step that could go on to fulfill the wish of those who want to see a diverse leadership in the key department. Douglas Kmiec, a former attorney for two former GOP presidents, says the former president of color should become the next AG of the US.

Douglas Kmiec is professor emeritus of constitutional law at Pepperdine University School of Law and served in the Office of Legal Counsel for former presidents Ronald Reagan  and George HW Bush (Getty Images)

Douglas Kmiec, professor emeritus of constitutional law at Pepperdine University School of Law who served in the Office of Legal Counsel for former presidents Ronald Reagan (1981-89) and George HW Bush (1989-93), said in an opinion piece written for The Hill that appointing Obama as the AG would “re-establish the rule of law”. The 59-year-old Democrat has in the past taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School (1992-2004) and worked as a civil rights attorney. 

In his piece that came out on the New Year Day, Kmiec said as the next president, Biden “will need to be highly capable at reassuring estranged voters — Democrat, Republican or independent — that he is governing in the national interest” and he felt the former vice president would need his former boss to accomplish the not-so-easy mission. Kmiec said: “Biden’s almost-plagiarized overuse of the red state/blue state metaphor from the 2008 election needs a definite boost of authenticity and actual demonstration of applied fairness. Instead of continuing to borrow Barack Obama’s trade line, he needs Obama himself. The fastest way to re-establish the rule of law is for Biden to nominate Obama as attorney general. If Biden simultaneously kept Christopher Wray as head of the FBI and made Justice’s current inspector general, Michael Horowitz, head of its Office of Legal Counsel, he would remove much division, doubt and uncertainty.”

Obama could also prepare himself for SCOTUS

Kmiec, who also served as the US ambassador to Malta between 2009 and 2011 when Obama was at the helm, said “appointing Obama certainly would be unprecedented, but so is the need”. He also went on to say that by serving as the next AG, Obama could prepare himself to serve on the Supreme Court in times to come. 

“We have never had a former president take on the leadership of an executive department for a successor president, but nothing precludes it, save, possibly, Michelle Obama. We must leave those domestic relations to the former president — but [Obama] has the intelligence, youth and character to do the job,” he wrote, adding: “Besides, it's perfect preparation for subsequent additional public service on the Supreme Court.”

CNN reported on January 2 that the names that are in the race for the AG’s position are outgoing Alabama Senator Doug Jones, federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland (Obama had once nominated him to the SCOTUS) and former deputy AG Sally Yates. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is also under consideration but he has given an indication that he is not keen to work for the Biden administration. The report also said that “tensions are particularly high since, despite all the lobbying from outside groups, three of the top remaining frontrunners to lead the Justice Department are all White, and two of them are men”.

In a December report, CNN said former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black, remains in the mix. Eric Holder, who served as the AG under Obama between 2009 and 2015, was the first African American to hold the position.

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