Attorney General Eric Holder defended Debo Adegbile, whose nomination to lead the Justice Department's civil rights division failed in the Senate on Wednesday because of his work on behalf of a convicted cop-killer, saying that lawmakers who voted no "misunderstood" his record.
"He deserved to have his nomination considered wholly on the merits. His record was either misunderstood, or intentionally misrepresented for the sake of politics," Holder said of Adegbile after seven Democrats joined all Senate Republicans to block his nomination. "Our legal system hinges on the fundamental ideal that every accused individual has a constitutional right to counsel. It is a very dangerous precedent to set for the legal profession when individual lawyers can have their otherwise sterling qualifications denigrated based solely on the clients that their organizations represent.”
President Obama, in his statement on the matter, said that “the Senate's failure to confirm Debo Adegbile to lead the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice is a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant."
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., addressed Holder's "right to counsel" argument in a statement explaining his decisive vote to oppose Adegbile.
"I understand the importance of having legal advocates willing to fight for even the most despicable clients, and I embrace the proposition that an attorney is not responsible for the actions of their client," Coons said.
“The decades-long public campaign by others, however, to elevate a heinous, cold-blooded killer to the status of a political prisoner and folk hero has caused tremendous pain to the widow of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner and shown great disrespect for law enforcement officers and families throughout our region," he continued. "These factors have led me to cast a vote today that is more about listening to and respecting their concerns than about the innate qualifications of this nominee."