Drew Wrigley’s future as U.S. attorney uncertain as Biden prepares to take office

Senator John Hoeven, RN.D.’s office said in a statement to the forum that he and his North Dakota Republican Senator Kevin Cramer had reached out to the transition team to stand up for Wriglely, who has served twice in the last two decades. His last stint started in April 2017.

“Drew Wrigley has done an excellent job as a US attorney and we appreciate his service,” said Hoeven’s office, adding that the Senator will ensure that a qualified candidate receives the position.

According to Bidenen’s spokeswoman, no official recommendations have been made to Biden’s office.

Presidents typically replace the previous administration’s U.S. attorneys with their own decisions. The Biden transition team did not return a request for comment on this story, asking if the president-elect has started reviewing candidates for US attorneys.

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Political tensions are high in Washington, DC, especially after rioters stormed the US Capitol on Jan. 6 to prevent members of Congress from confirming the results of the presidential election.

Despite the political divide, Wrigley and others said they had no reason to believe that Biden’s process of nominating a U.S. attorney should not go smoothly.

“I’m confident to say that here in North Dakota I don’t know why things aren’t going to be professional and straightforward,” said Wrigley. “I think that was the story and I see no reason why this wouldn’t go on.”

Wrigley was first appointed in October 2001 before stepping down in September 2009. This makes him the 17th and 19th US attorney in North Dakota.

At the moment, Wrigley said his focus is on working in the office. If he is replaced, he said he would support the next US attorney.

“When # 20 shows up, I can guarantee that numbers 17 and 19 will cheer him or her on and make sure the transition is smooth, productive and that they are doing the great job,” said Wrigley.

When asked if he would move on in the post if Biden agreed to allow him to move on, he said it would not be appropriate for him to say so.

“Someone would read this if I tried to put pressure on them … and that couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said. “That is your determination to achieve.”

Typically, a president asks senators to come up with a list of nominations for their own states, said Tim Purdon, who took over Wrigley in August 2010.

The president then selects a candidate. After background checks and the green light from home state senators, the Senate will meet to potentially approve the nominated candidate.

The process is less clear to Biden since North Dakota has two Republican senators, Purdon said. It is possible that he is soliciting contributions from members of the North Dakota Democratic Party, he added.

Biden will likely want his own choice in the office, Purdon said.

“If President Biden nominates someone who is unacceptable to Sen. Hoeven and Sen. Cramer, that nomination will not advance,” Purdon said.

It is possible for Biden, Hoeven and Cramer to come to a consensus, he added.

“I am confident that this will not be a political mud fight between the senators and the president,” Purdon said.

Cramer said in a statement that he looks forward to “working with the Biden administration to decide who will take on this role and to ensure a seamless, orderly transition.”

It wouldn’t be the first time North Dakota senators have had to work with a president who represents the opposing party. Wrigley was appointed for his first term by former President George W. Bush when US Sens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad, two Democrats from North Dakota, were in office.

Every transition is different, although it typically takes months to find a new US attorney. The U.S. chief assistant attorney will be appointed by the court to serve as the acting U.S. attorney for the time necessary to identify the successor to the previous attorney.

Purdon resigned from office in March 2015 to return to private practice. He said he has no plans to return to public office.

He said there are several qualified lawyers interested in the position. This group includes several US assistant attorneys and Mac Schneider, a personal injury attorney and former Democratic State senator from Grand Forks.

Schneider said he had not been asked to take the position by anyone, but would be honored to do so if nominated.

“If the President of the United States asks you to serve in this capacity, the answer would of course be yes,” he said.

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