Senate GOP warns Biden against picking Sally Yates as attorney general

Top Republicans are warning against President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenObama: Ensuring democracy 'continues to work effectively' keeps me 'up at night' New Jersey landlords prohibited from asking potential tenants about criminal records Overnight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine MORE picking former Deputy Attorney General Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesSally Yates: I never thought that I'd be saying, 'Yeah, go Liz Cheney' ABC lands first one-on-one TV interview with Garland since confirmation Appointing a credible, non-partisan Jan. 6 commission should not be difficult MORE to helm the Department of Justice (DOJ). 

Yates has been floated as being on Biden's shortlist to lead the DOJ, but Republicans are warning she would be a tough, if not impossible, confirmation fight. 

"I think there's plenty of people that he wouldn't have to take a chance on her," said Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyFive takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision On The Money: Yellen, Powell brush off inflation fears | Fed keeps rates steady, upgrades growth projections Overnight Health Care: US buying additional 200M Moderna vaccine doses | CureVac's COVID-19 vaccine failed in preliminary trial results | Grassley meets with House Dems on drug prices MORE (R-Iowa), who will chair the Judiciary Committee if Republicans keep control of the Senate. He added that Yates's ties to the FBI's 2016 Russia investigation were "very worrisome."


Asked if he thought a GOP-controlled Senate would confirm Yates to be attorney general, Sen. John CornynJohn CornynThe Senate is where dreams go to die Federal government to observe Juneteenth holiday on Friday Joe Manchin keeps Democrats guessing on sweeping election bill MORE (R-Texas), an adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGraham quips key to working with Trump: We both 'like him' The Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare here to stay Democrats scramble to unify before election bill brawl MORE and a member of the panel, replied bluntly, "No." 

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham quips key to working with Trump: We both 'like him' Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle Lawmakers rally around cyber legislation following string of attacks MORE (R-S.C.), who currently chairs the committee, said he could give a "thumbs-up" to either ousted Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) or Circuit Judge Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandHouse Judiciary asks DOJ to disclose remaining gag orders The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Biden frustrates death penalty opponents with Supreme Court request MORE, whose 2016 Supreme Court nomination Republicans stonewalled. 

But asked about Yates as attorney general, he replied, "I don't think so."  

Though Biden has named several top Cabinet picks since he was projected the winner just over a month ago, he hasn't yet tapped who he will name attorney general.

The Washington Post reported on Friday that Yates and Jones were considered the top candidates to lead Biden's Justice Department. 


Supporters of Yates argue that she's deeply qualified to run the DOJ. She was previously the No. 2 in the Justice Department during the Obama administration and was a U.S. attorney before that. She briefly served as acting attorney general under Trump before being fired for refusing to defend the president's travel ban. 

But Yates would face a bruising confirmation fight because of her ties to the FBI's probe into Russia's election interference and the Trump campaign. 

Yates testified on the issue before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year in a testy hearing where Republican senators frequently interrupted her. Yates has distanced herself from some of the decisions made by former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyMystery surrounds Justice's pledge on journalist records NYT publisher: DOJ phone records seizure a 'dangerous incursion' on press freedom Trump DOJ seized phone records of New York Times reporters MORE

Though Yates signed both the initial warrant application on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page and the first renewal, she told the committee that had she known there were inaccuracies in the applications, she would not have signed them.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found seven significant errors and omissions in the initial application and a total of 17 among the four warrant applications linked to Page.


But Republicans would be all but guaranteed to raise the issue again if Yates is nominated to be attorney general. 

"Terrible idea," said Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyPence heckled with calls of 'traitor' at conservative conference Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision Senate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior MORE (R-Mo.), a member of the committee and a potential 2024 contender, when asked about Yates as attorney general. 

Asked if he thought a GOP-controlled Senate would confirm Yates, he added "I would hope they wouldn't." 

Which party will control the chamber is in limbo until next month's two January 5 runoff election races in Georgia.

If Democrats are able to win both seats they could force a 50-50 tie in the Senate, which would hand them the majority because Vice President-elect Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris signals a potential breakthrough in US-Mexico cooperation Watch live: Harris delivers remarks on vaccination efforts Biden signs Juneteenth bill: 'Great nations don't ignore their most painful moments' MORE could break a tie once she assumes office on January 20.

That means Democrat could confirm whomever Biden nominates without GOP support as long as every Democratic senator supports the confirmation. 

If Republicans control the Senate, they will effectively be able to stonewall any nominee they oppose. 

Jones is widely viewed as the easiest pick to get through a GOP-controlled Senate. 

Asked about Jones, Cornyn added that the outgoing senator had "friends on both sides" of the aisle. 

"I think people would be open to that," he said. "He's a very pleasant guy."