Senate confirms Andrew Luger as Minnesota's U.S. Attorney

24 March 2022

WASHINGTON – Andrew Luger is officially returning as Minnesota’s U.S. Attorney.

The Senate confirmed Luger in a 60 to 36 vote Thursday despite two Republicans throwing up roadblocks in the process earlier this year.

The nomination of Luger, who earlier served as U.S. Attorney for Minnesota under President Barack Obama, was backed by both of the state’s Democratic senators.

“Andy Luger is a dedicated public servant who will work to uphold justice and protect Minnesotans as our United States Attorney,” Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said in a statement about the confirmation she championed. “I am confident he will serve our state with distinction and I am proud to have supported him throughout the confirmation process.”

Luger’s first term as U.S. Attorney ended in 2017 when he was ordered to step down under President Donald Trump’s administration. He oversaw major cases such as the nation’s largest terrorism recruitment trial and the prosecution of the man who admitted to kidnapping and killing Jacob Wetterling.

Luger was one of three finalists for the job, along with former federal prosecutors Surya Saxena and Lola Velazquez-Aguilu. They emerged from a search committee led by Klobuchar and fellow Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith, who also praised Luger’s qualifications.

“I am confident that his experience, dedication to public service, and commitment to justice will help him lead the U.S. Attorney’s office in Minnesota with integrity,” said Smith in a statement.

Luger didn’t issue a statement following the vote. Klobuchar has long been a supporter of Luger and in 2017, she urged Trump to re-nominate him shortly after then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a sweeping wave of resignations of Obama holdovers.

Luger’s candidacy faced early opposition locally: the state’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations sent a letter to the White House a year ago opposing Luger’s potential appointment. The letter was also signed by two dozen DFL state lawmakers and scores of community groups. Bringing Luger back, they wrote, “signals to our historically overpoliced and oversurveilled communities that we do not care about rebuilding trust or repairing the harm done.”

Luger, who has since worked in private practice for Jones Day in Minneapolis, would succeed Erica MacDonald, a Trump appointee who stepped down earlier this year at Democratic President Joe Biden’s request. MacDonald has since joined the Faegre Drinker law firm.

He’s played a leading role in Jones Day’s work for the city of Minneapolis as it responds to the Justice Department’s investigation into whether its police department has engaged in a “pattern and practice” of systemic illegal conduct. That could pose an ethical dilemma in a high-profile investigation, as Luger would have to decide whether to recuse himself from the probe announced last year.

Luger’s path to Senate confirmation encountered some bumps earlier this year. In February, GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made a public show of holding up Luger’s nomination because of the sentencing of Montez Lee Jr.

The Rochester man had received a sentence 10 years below the maximum for setting a deadly Lake Street fire in the unrest that came after George Floyd’s death by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020. Luger was not involved in the case, but McConnell said during a Senate floor speech he needed to know Biden’s choice would “not continue this jaw-dropping practice and lessen criminals’ sentences so long as the political violence they commit happens to be left-wing.”

Luger responded in a letter obtained by the Star Tribune that said in part, “violent crime cases — regardless of motivation — will be prosecuted fully.”

An effort to push forward Luger’s confirmation on the Senate floor as part of a set of other lingering nominations was also turned away by GOP Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas earlier this month. Cotton’s objection was not specific to Luger.

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