- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Senate Judiciary Committee gave a first approval Thursday to President Trump’s pick to be assistant attorney general overseeing the criminal division at the Justice Department, overcoming Democratic objections that he has ties to a controversial Russian bank.

Brian Benczkowski will now need confirmation by the full Senate, after clearing the committee on an 11-9 party-line vote.

Democrats complained about Mr. Benczkowski’s past representation of Alfa Bank, a Russian bank, which was mentioned in the controversial dossier about Mr. Trump’s campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 election.

Mr. Benczkowski worked for the Trump campaign during the transition period as a liaison to the Justice Department. But prior to Mr. Trump’s inauguration, Mr. Benczkowski took a job at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, where he ended up representing Alfa Bank as a client.

“What we have here is a clear demonstration of poor judgment on the part of Mr. Benczkowski,” said Sen. Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, of Mr. Benczkowski’s representation of the bank.

Mr. Benczkowski also served as a staffer for Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he was in the Senate.

The top Democrat on the committee Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said she was worried Mr. Benczkowski lacked qualifications and independence because he had never served as a prosecutor or worked in the Justice Department’s criminal division.

“Mr. Benczkowski’s lack of prosecutorial and court room experience is unusual,” she said.

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