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The senatorial stalemate over U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Kenneth Wainstein’s nomination to head the new National Security Division in the Justice Department ended last week when Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) backed down, clearing the way for Wainstein’s unanimous confirmation. Levin single-handedly blocked a confirmation vote on Wainstein for months because the Justice Department wouldn’t release records Levin wanted concerning FBI agents’ objections to Defense Department interrogation techniques used on terrorism detainees at Guant�namo Bay, Cuba. Wainstein served as FBI general counsel in 2003 and chief of staff for FBI Director Robert Mueller in 2004. On the Senate floor Sept. 21, Levin said he was still “troubled by the Department of Justice’s stonewalling of my requests,” but he acknowledged Wainstein did not control the documents and had been forthcoming during his nomination. “It really hasn’t been that trying,” Wainstein says of the delays. “I’ve been doing the greatest job in the world — as U.S. attorney in D.C.” Wainstein says the consolidation of Justice’s national-security assets in one division will improve communication and accountability. “There is no higher priority than counterterrorism these days,” he says. As U.S. attorney for the past two years, the 44-year-old Northern Virginia native created a stand-alone homicide unit and a program targeting gangs. On Friday the Justice Department appointed Jeffrey Taylor, counselor to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, to replace Wainstein. From 1995 to 1999, Taylor was a federal prosecutor in San Diego handling drug cases. He spent the next three years detailed to the Senate Judiciary Committee under Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), where he helped craft the USA Patriot Act. Taylor returned to San Diego before joining then-Attorney General John Ashcroft as counsel for criminal and national security matters. Some observers question Taylor’s lack of experience with the D.C. office, the nation’s largest U.S. Attorney’s Office and the only one that also handles local criminal cases. But Gonzales said in a statement that Taylor’s “legal skills, leadership ability, and personable approach to doing business will make this time of transition for the U.S. Attorney’s Office very smooth and productive.”
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected]. Brendan Smith can be contacted at [email protected].

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