Trump attorney general had 'shouting match' with GOP senator over withdrawn Justice nominee Liu: report

Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent Trump approval drops to 2019 low after Mueller report's release: poll Trump: Mueller report was 'written as nastily as possible' by 'true Trump Haters' MORE and Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeDems sound alarm over top DOJ nominee Restore Pell Grant eligibility to people in prison Former Democratic aide pleads guilty to doxing GOP senators attending Kavanaugh hearing MORE (R-Utah) had a "shouting match" over the Justice Department nomination of Jessie Liu, NPR reported Friday, citing two sources. 

Liu, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, withdrew her nomination on Thursday night amid opposition from conservative senators, some of whom had concerns that the nominee would not be strong enough in opposing abortion rights.

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The withdrawal prevented the Trump administration from adding an Asian-American to the top ranks of the Justice Department in a move that would have been a nod toward diversity.

A spokesperson for Lee declined to comment on the reported exchange between Barr and Lee, but confirmed Lee's opposition to Liu's nomination.

"Sen. Lee did oppose Mrs. Liu’s nomination due to questions about her record on life issues," the spokesperson told The Hill.

NPR reported that Liu early in her career had an affiliation with the National Association of Women Lawyers, which sent a letter opposing Justice Samuel Alito's confirmation to the Supreme Court. NPR noted that Philip Alito, a son of the justice, works for a Senate subcommittee led by Lee.

Lee previously served as a law clerk for Samuel Alito when he was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit and for a year when Alito was a Supreme Court justice.

A spokesperson for Lee told NPR that Philip Alito "took diligent care to recuse himself from all staff conversations about Mrs. Liu with the senator."

Liu, however, signed a separate letter along with other Yale Law School alumni in support of Alito's nomination. 

A Justice Department spokesperson did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment, but Barr on Thursday released a statement praising Liu before the withdrawal of her nomination. 

"Jessie Liu, an outstanding attorney with broad experience, is widely-respected, within the Department," the statement said. "Jessie will be an integral part of our leadership at the Department. We will all benefit from her universally-regarded expertise and dedication to public service." 

Jordain Carney contributed.

Updated at 5:10 p.m.