Sen. Jeff Merkley opposes Rahm Emanuel’s nom. to ambassador of Japan

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Sen. Jeff Merkley opposes Rahm Emanuel's nom. to ambassador of Japan

Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley said Wednesday that he opposes Rahm Emanuel’s nomination to be ambassador to Japan due to his record on police brutality — meaning the ex-Chicago mayor will need Republicans to get confirmed.

Left-wing House Democrats have urged their upper-chamber colleagues to oppose Emanuel because he refused for more than a year to release damning dashboard camera footage of a Chicago police officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014. The officer later was convicted of murder.

“Black Lives Matter. Here in the halls of Congress, it is important that we not just speak and believe these words, but put them into action in the decisions we make,” Merkley said in a statement.

“I have carefully considered Mayor Emanuel’s record — and the input of civil rights leaders, criminal justice experts, and local elected officials who have reached out to the Senate to weigh in — and I have reached the decision that I cannot support his nomination to serve as a U.S. Ambassador.”

Emanuel does have some Republican support, including on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he’s backed by Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), a former ambassador to Japan — meaning that for now, he still has a chance of getting approved by the committee and then confirmed by the full Senate, which is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.

Several of Rahm Emanuel Democratic colleagues have said that he helped cover up the brutal murder of Laquan McDonald by a Chicago cop.
Several of Rahm Emanuel Democratic colleagues have said that he helped cover up the brutal murder of Laquan McDonald by a Chicago cop.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Hagerty said that he supports Emanuel, who was President Barack Obama’s famously in-your-face first White House chief of staff, because he “has assured me he will do everything in the immense power of the US ambassador to Japan to stand strong for Taiwan’s freedom and democratic rule.”

And some Democrats have brushed off concern about Emanuel’s handling of the McDonald case.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a member of the foreign relations committee, told Emanuel at his confirmation hearing that it isn’t possible to lead a major city without “picking up some scar tissue along the way.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley has said that he will oppose the nomination of Rahm Emanuel due to his history on police brutality.
Sen. Jeff Merkley has said that he will oppose the nomination of Rahm Emanuel due to his history on police brutality.
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

But many Senate Democrats haven’t taken a stance on Emanuel, including on the evenly divided committee — where members include Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who led Democratic negotiations on police reform, and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the co-author of the Green New Deal with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

Ocasio-Cortez is calling on the Senate to reject Emanuel, saying his “cover-up” of the McDonald shooting video was “flatly disqualifying.”

“That the Biden administration seeks to reward Emanuel with an ambassadorship is an embarrassment and betrayal of the values we seek to uphold both within our nation and around the world. I urge the Senate to vote NO on his confirmation,” she said.

Rahm Emanuel has some Republican supports so there is still a chance that he may be confirmed to the position.
Rahm Emanuel has some Republican supports so there is still a chance that he may be confirmed to the position.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Left-wing Reps. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.) said that “Rahm Emanuel helped cover up the brutal murder of Laquan McDonald — a Black teenager — by Chicago Police. In any other line of work, that would have rightfully ended his career.”

A defeat for Emanuel’s nomination would be an embarrassing blow to President Biden on the heels of poor showings for his party in New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races this week.

Intra-Democratic qualms previously killed the nominations of Neera Tanden to be White House budget director and David Chipman to lead the ATF.

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