WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama late Monday nominated Charlotte lawyer Thomas G. Walker to replace U.S. Attorney George Holding, who has spent months overseeing federal probes of two of the states most prominent Democrats: two-time presidential candidate John Edwards and former Gov. Mike Easley.
Walker had long been thought to be the front-runner for the job, but it was uncertain whether he would take over the investigations into Edwards and Easley.
Holding, who covers North Carolinas Eastern District from Raleigh, has been examining the campaign finances of Edwards, a former senator who admitted last year to an extra-marital affair. Holding also has looked into campaign finances and gifts to Easley, who just completed two terms as governor. Holding has called grand juries in both cases, but charges have not been filed against either Easley or Edwards.
U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who put Walkers name forward as a potential nominee, said late Monday she wants Holding to finish those probes.
I will continue to impress upon the White House that George Holding should be given the time to complete his investigations into former public officials, said Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, in a statement.
Still, she praised Obamas choice of Walker, a partner at the Charlotte office of Alston & Bird and a former special counsel to N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper.
Hagan called Walker extremely qualified and fair-minded. She added: I expect the transition process to be undertaken in a mutually respectful manner with an eye toward what is best for the citizens of North Carolina.
Obama also named U.S. attorney nominees, who must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, to similar posts in Wisconsin, Wyoming and Michigan. These fine attorneys have a extensive legal experience and a shared commitment to public service, Obama said in a his prepared statement.
Walker, 45, has worked at Alston & Bird since 2003, and before that worked for Cooper for two years. At Alston & Bird, he concentrates on complex federal and state government investigations and white-collar defense.
He has served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Western District from 1994 to 2001, and was an assistant district attorney for Mecklenburg County from 1990 to 1994.
Walker gave $1,250 last year to Obamas presidential campaign and $500 to Hagans Senate campaign, according to records.
Last summer, Hagan submitted Walkers name along with that of Benjamin David, the district attorney for Pender and New Hanover counties; and Hampton Dellinger, a partner in the law firm of Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson.
Burley Mitchell, a former N.C. Supreme Court justice, said Walker stood out as a contender for the position. Mitchell chaired a committee advising Hagan on the judicial nominations.
He gives every indication of being fair and moderate, Mitchell said.
Mitchell did note say that the nomination took did take longer than in previous administrations, but that Obamas attention understandably could have been elsewhere.
He has one or two things on his mind in addition to who will be U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of North Carolina, he said.
Mitchell said he doesnt expect Thomas nomination to derail the ongoing Easley and Edwards investigations.
Hagan told the White House that she wanted Holding to finish that work.
As I have previously discussed with the Office of the White House Counsel, it is my belief that the current U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, George Holding, should be allowed to complete the ongoing investigations of public officials in the state, Hagan wrote in July.
She continued: During my conversations with the Office of the White House Counsel, there was an interest expressed by the Counsels office to potentially appoint a separate individual to begin handling other matters not related to these investigations. Should you decide to do so, the following names are provided for your consideration.
But in its spare news release Monday, the White House made no mention of whether Holding could stay on at all. Efforts to reach him were unsuccessful U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican, was not immediately available for comment late Monday.
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