Maryland's federal prosecutor nominee set for consideration after delay over Russia probe

Senate Republicans said Monday that they will consider Robert K. Hur to be the U.S. Attorney for Maryland after initially delaying his confirmation over questions about the Department of Justice’s probe of the 2016 presidential election.

Hur, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland who was nominated for the post in November, will be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday following a series of articles in The Baltimore Sun noting that his confirmation had fallen behind those for the same post in other states.

Committee chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, told The Sun last week he wanted additional information from the Justice Department before moving forward with Hur. Several sources with knowledge of the process said Grassley had sought information about the oversight of the special counsel’s investigation.

A spokesman for Grassley did not respond to a request for comment. Hur’s name appeared Monday evening on a list of nominees the committee will consider at a meeting Thursday.

It is not clear what, specifically, Grassley had sought or whether he received any information from the department. Republicans also have been leaning on Justice Department officials to name a second special counsel to investigate the FBI’s handling of its own probe into Russian election meddling as well as Democrat Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Hur, a 45-year-old Silver Spring resident, is currently the principal associate deputy attorney general, serving under Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. If confirmed, Hur would succeed Rosenstein as Maryland’s top federal prosecutor.

The delay for Hur has come as Baltimore wrestles with a grim increase in violent crime. Though the violent crime rate has fallen below last year’s historic numbers, it remains higher than normal. Members of the state’s mostly Democratic congressional delegation last week called on the committee to hurry up its review of Hur.

The Maryland suburbs of Washington have suffered violent crime carried out by MS-13, the best known of the gangs that originated in the 1980s among Central American immigrants in Los Angeles.

President Donald J. Trump and his Justice Department have made the prosecution of MS-13 members a top priority. Attorney General Jeff Sessions discussed the issue in a visit to Baltimore in December.

“We’re pleased that the committee is moving forward,” said Sue Walitsky, a spokeswoman for Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland.

Trump’s nominees for U.S. attorney have largely been confirmed without controversy. Of 58 prosecutors named by Trump last year, 56 have been confirmed by voice vote in the Senate — including six other candidates named when Hur was selected in early November. The 57th, William M. McSwain, who was nominated in December to be the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, was approved by the committee last week.

Stephen M. Schenning has been serving as the acting U.S. attorney in Maryland since late April. A Baltimore native, Schenning was the first assistant U.S. attorney from 2011 until Rosenstein’s departure. Schenning has the same legal powers as a Senate-confirmed attorney.

During Hur’s seven years as a federal prosecutor in Maryland, he handled financial and regulatory offenses. Before that, he worked in the Justice Department as counsel to the assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division, overseeing counterterrorism, corporate fraud and appellate issues.

If approved by the committee, Hur would then move to the full Senate for confirmation.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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