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Acosta, Christie on Short List for Attorney General, Sources Say

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Acosta, Christie on Short List for Attorney General, Sources Say

  • Judge Edith Jones, Pam Bondi, William Barr also weighed
  • Trump’s preferred candidate for post isn’t yet clear
Christie is said to be among the people in the running to become the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and U.S. Appeals Court Judge Edith Jones are among the people White House aides and outside advisers are considering to replace Jeff Sessions as the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and former U.S. Attorney General William Barr also are being considered, said people familiar with the matter.

Alex Acosta

Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg

Some Republicans in Senate leadership are pressing for Acosta, viewing him as more easily confirmed because he has already been vetted for a cabinet post and has a compelling life story, said two people close to the process. The son of Cuban refugees, Acosta went to Harvard for both college and law school and clerked for the Supreme Court. Trump also has developed a strong relationship with Acosta, two other people said.

Sessions was forced to resign on Wednesday, and the White House has come under criticism from Democrats for appointing Sessions’s chief of staff Matthew Whitaker as the acting attorney general.

Any new attorney general will be faced with managing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion by Trump’s campaign -- the issue that cost Sessions his job. Trump never forgave the former Alabama senator for recusing himself from supervising Mueller’s probe, an investigation the president has repeatedly belittled as a “witch hunt.”

Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney in Iowa, has publicly criticized Mueller’s work, leading Democrats to call for him to also recuse himself. He has no intention of doing so, according to a person familiar with the matter. Whitaker would, however, consult Justice Department ethics officials if a particular matter arose, the person said.

It isn’t clear whom Trump favors to replace Sessions permanently. Christie, Acosta, Jones, Bondi and Barr are under consideration by his aides and outside advisers, people familiar with the matter said. Whomever Trump nominates for the job will be asked to promise senators that he or she will allow Mueller to complete his work.

Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who is often a key vote on controversial matters, said in a tweet on Wednesday, after Sessions was ousted and Whitaker was appointed, that it’s “imperative” the Trump administration “not impede the Mueller investigation.”

The people familiar with the matter didn’t name Whitaker as a potential permanent replacement for Sessions, but he is a favorite inside the White House and may well be on Trump’s personal short list. White House representatives didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

One person familiar with the process questioned whether Christie and Bondi, both politically divisive figures, could win Senate confirmation.

(Updates with some Senate Republican leaders pressing for Acosta in third paragraph.)