Biden Pick Lisa Monaco Wins Senate Confirmation for No. 2 at DOJ

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The Senate confirmed Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general, the first action toward filling out Merrick Garland’s new leadership team for the Justice Department as it races to confront threats from domestic terrorism to potentially crippling cyber attacks.

Monaco, who was confirmed Tuesday with strong bipartisan support on a vote of 98-2 brings a wealth of experience to the position, which oversees all of the department’s operations and its workforce of about 113,000, including 93 U.S. attorneys, as No. 2 to Attorney General Garland.

Biden Pick Lisa Monaco Wins Senate Confirmation for No. 2 at DOJ

Monaco, 53, spent 15 years in the Justice Department during the Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama administrations. In 2011 she became the first woman to lead the department’s national security division. In 2013, President Barack Obama selected her to serve as White House homeland security and counterterrorism adviser.

“Simply put, Lisa Monaco may be the most qualified individual ever nominated to serve as deputy attorney general,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said during her confirmation hearing on March 9.

Gupta Challenged

Although Monaco had a relatively easy confirmation process, other officials nominated by President Joe Biden to top department positions have encountered fierce opposition from Republicans.

Most Republicans have said they are opposed to the nominations of Vanita Gupta to be associate attorney general -- the No. 3 leadership position -- and Kristin Clarke to head the civil rights division on grounds that they’re too liberal.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had to take the rare step of filing a discharge petition in order to bring Gupta’s nomination to the floor. A vote hasn’t yet been held on confirming her nomination.

Monaco said during her confirmation hearing that her first priority once confirmed will be getting up to speed on the investigation into the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol by extremist supporters of former President Donald Trump.

“It will be my focus to immediately get briefed on that investigation, but more broadly to understand, what is it that brought us to this point where we could have such an attack that I personally never thought I would see in my lifetime?” Monaco said. “What is it that is mobilizing people to violence and can we deploy all of the tools and resources of the Department of Justice to make sure it never happens again?”

The Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation have warned about a heightened threat of attack from domestic violent extremists, and white supremacists in particular.

“The Department of Justice is pouring its resources into stopping domestic violent extremists before they can attack, prosecuting those who do, and battling the spread of the kind of hate that leads to tragedies like the one we mark here today,” Garland said Monday at an event marking the 26th anniversary of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Monaco also will help coordinate the department’s investigations and responses to hacking attacks. The nation’s spy chiefs warned last week that the prospect of “destructive and disruptive” hacking attacks is increasing as countries deploy more aggressive cyber operations, including those that could temporarily disable critical computers in the U.S.

While the deputy attorney general has traditionally been a relatively obscure position publicly, its importance was demonstrated during the Trump administration. Trump’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, recused himself from being involved in the FBI’s investigation into whether Trump or any of his associates conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.

The recusal catapulted then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to national prominence -- and controversy -- as he took charge of overseeing the investigation. Rosenstein in turn appointed Special Counsel Robert Muellerto run the inquiry, which cast a shadow over Trump’s tenure.

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