- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to advance the nomination of John C. Demers as head the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

Lawmakers spoke favorably of Mr. Demers at Thursday’s committee meeting, with Sen. Charles Grassley noting that all the former assistant attorneys general who previously headed the division under both the Bush and Obama administrations supported his nomination.

“This strong bipartisan support is a testament to his impeccable background in national security,” the Iowa Republican said.

Mr. Demers, an assistant general counsel for Boeing Company, previously worked in the Justice Department from 2003 to 2009. Initially working in the Office of Legal Counsel, he later moved to the National Security Division.

The national security division nomination vote comes as Congress debates reauthorization of a key foreign intelligence surveillance law set to expire by the end of the year.

Top Justice Department and Intelligence Community officials have pushed for a complete and permanent renewal of the the federal government’s spying powers under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — meaning the law would no longer have a sunset provision that has allowed Congress to check back on its use and make occasional changes. However civil liberties groups have asked for lawmakers to keep the sunset provision and to go further to rein in the governments spying ability, warning that Americans’ privacy is not being fully protected under the law.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, highlighted Mr. Demers’ stance on the renewal.

“I was heartened that in the response to questions for the record Mr. Demers testified that ‘regular and meaningful congressional oversight to the use of Section 702 is an important aspect of the program’s implementation,’” she said.

Ten months into the Trump administration, the Justice Department is still struggling to get leaders of its key divisions in place.

In addition to the top three positions in the Justice Department, three assistant attorneys general and the solicitor general have been approved by Congress. Nominations for six other assistant attorneys general, including the national security division, are pending, according to a breakdown of nominations provided by the DOJ.

No nominee has been put forth yet for the tax division.

At Thursday’s committee meeting, lawmakers also advanced the nominations of five U.S. attorneys — Scott C. Blader for the Western District of Wisconsin, Mark A. Klaassen for the District of Wyoming, William C. Lamar for the Northern District of Mississippi, John R. Lausch Jr. for the Northern District of Illinois, and J. Douglas Overbey for the Eastern District of Tennessee.

Senate records show that of the 93 U.S. attorney positions, President Trump has made 46 nominations.

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