Sen. Tom Cotton threatens to block Biden’s DOJ nominees

Sen. Tom Cotton threatens to block Biden's DOJ nominees

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) threatened Monday to block President Biden’s Department of Justice nominees over claims the government will not pay to defend US Marshals facing lawsuits over their actions during rioting in Portland, Ore. during the summer of 2020.

In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Cotton lauded the “courageous officers” — who he said were “attacked by left-wing street militias with weapons such as mortar fire, ball bearings, and blinding lasers” — and decried the lawsuits as “frivolous.”

“A refusal to represent these Deputy Marshals would violate the Department’s long-standing practice — not to mention its moral duty — to defend law-enforcement officers when they’re sued for actions in the line of duty,” he wrote.

“I hope these reports are mistaken,” added Cotton, who informed the DOJ that it had until 3 p.m. Tuesday to confirm that it is either directly representing the marshals or paying fees for their private counsel “or explain why on earth you’re not.”

“Absent a timely and satisfactory answer, I will be compelled to object to Department nominees both in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor,” he concluded.  

A man on a BLM bullhorn lectures the Portland Police after they declared the protests a riot and unlawful assembly.
US Marshals face claims that they used excessive force in 2020 against BLM and Antifa when the federal courthouse in downtown Portland became the site of nightly pitched battles and riots.

Following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020, the federal courthouse in downtown Portland became the site of nightly pitched battles between BLM and Antifa activists on one side, and police and US Marshals on the other.

Multiple lawsuits have been filed in the months since the violence, with most plaintiffs alleging excessive force on the part of the marshals. In November, for example, a protester named Donavan LaBella filed a lawsuit for damages suffered when he was shot in the head with a “less lethal” munition in July 2020. LaBella’s family says he was left with a traumatic brain injury as a result.

In a statement, the Justice Department said it is “reviewing Senator Cotton’s letter and will respond promptly.

“The department currently represents or has paid for representation of over 70 federal employees who have been sued in connection with the events in Portland,” a DOJ spokesperson said. “Indeed, to date, the department has denied legal representation for only one federal employee in these cases.”

The Virginia-based Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund told Fox News Monday it is representing four deputy US Marshals who face lawsuits, including one who “was outright denied legal defense by the DOJ.”

Neither Cotton nor the Justice Department referenced any specific lawsuit and no officers were identified as defendants.

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