Senate confirms John Demers to head DOJ national security division

Senate confirms John Demers to head DOJ national security division
© Camille Fine

The Senate on Thursday voted to confirm John Demers to be the new head of the Department of Justice's (DOJ) national security division after a GOP senator lifted a hold on his confirmation.

Demers, who served as vice president and assistant general counsel at Boeing after serving in the DOJ's national security division team from 2006 to 2009, will become the assistant attorney general for national security.

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"John Demers was on the leadership team at the creation of the National Security Division, which today plays a crucial role in protecting Americans from the threat of terrorism," Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSessions says FBI agent Peter Strzok no longer has his security clearance Grassley wants to subpoena Comey, Lynch after critical IG report Sessions: 'We never really intended' to separate families MORE said in a statement.

"I am grateful to the Senate for confirming John and I look forward to his return to the department, where his significant experience in both the private sector and public service will most certainly benefit the American people."

Demers was confirmed Thursday after Colorado Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerSenate moving ahead with border bill, despite Trump 13 GOP senators ask administration to pause separation of immigrant families Sessions floats federal law that would protect states that decriminalize marijuana MORE (R), whose state was the first to fully legalize recreational marijuana, lifted a hold on his nomination that he had placed over the DOJ's shifting attitudes on marijuana law enforcement.

Gardner has clashed with Sessions and the DOJ over the agency's decision to reverse an Obama-era policy aimed at discouraging federal prosecutors from pursuing marijuana-related offenses in states where it is legal, including Colorado. The senator threatened in January to block DOJ nominees over the move.

The GOP senator's decision Thursday followed what he called "positive conversations" with Deputy Assistant Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinGrassley wants to subpoena Comey, Lynch after critical IG report Top House Dem claims Judiciary chairman's DOJ, FBI subpoena is invalid Republicans tear into IG finding on Clinton probe MORE and the acting U.S. attorney for Colorado that "clarifies the DOJ priorities regarding marijuana enforcement."

“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 in a statement. “My holds on all other DOJ nominees will remain in place as discussions continue.”

“Let me be crystal clear: so long as the federal enforcement priorities detailed in the 2013 Cole Memorandum are adequately protected, the DOJ should respect the will of the states who have spoken overwhelmingly on this issue," Gardner said, referring to Obama-era DOJ guidance on marijuana prosecutions.

"I will view the DOJ’s failure to do so as a direct contradiction of our positive conversations and will take action accordingly."