President Donald Trump announced Friday that Joseph Hunt, chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is his nominee to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Division.
Before becoming Sessions’ right-hand man earlier this year, Hunt spent 15 years at the DOJ as director of the Federal Programs Branch within the Civil Division, which defends federal agencies from litigation. As leader of the Civil Division, Hunt would oversee six sections, including the appellate staff, federal programs and consumer protection branch.
Many of Trump’s DOJ nominees are lingering in confirmation limbo. Trump’s picks for solicitor general as well as heads of the Antitrust Division, Criminal Division and Civil Rights Division have yet to be confirmed, though they have appeared for hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Several lawyers were rumored to be potential picks for the Civil Division spot, including Watchtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz partner George Conway, husband of presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway.
Under Sessions, Hunt has been involved in some of the controversy surrounding the attorney general’s decision to recuse from the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections and potential collusion with the Trump campaign. It was Hunt who wrote the March 2 memo to senior DOJ staff, including now-fired FBI Director Jim Comey, explaining Sessions’ recusal. In his June testimony before Congress, Comey said he could not publicly say why Sessions had to recuse. The DOJ pushed back on that assertion, pointing to Hunt’s memo as evidence that Sessions recused because of his involvement in Trump’s campaign.
Hunt joined the DOJ in 1999, and worked in private practice before that. He is a graduate of Columbia Law School, and clerked for Judge James Hancock of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.