In a Friday op-ed for The Hill, Douglas Kmiec, a lawyer who served in the Office of Legal Counsel for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and later as the U.S. Ambassador to Malta under President Barack Obama, said President-elect Joe Biden should appoint Obama to serve as his attorney general.
Kmiec wrote Biden picking Obama as his attorney general would help reassure Americans uncertain over the 2020 U.S. election results. Addressing challenges President Donald Trump has raised to the election results, as well as plans by Republican lawmakers to challenge the certification of electoral votes on Jan. 6, Kmiec said Biden will likely prevail in the election challenges but he will then need to reassure estranged voters.
“The fastest way to re-establish the rule of law is for Biden to nominate Obama as attorney general,” Kmiec wrote. “If Biden simultaneously kept Christopher Wray as head of the FBI and made Justice’s current inspector general, Michael Horowitz, head of its Office of Legal Counsel, he would remove much division, doubt and uncertainty.”
Kmiec, who is a registered Republican, endorsed Obama in the 2008 U.S. election before he was appointed in July 2009 to become the ambassador to Malta.
Kmiec, said Biden choosing Obama as his attorney general would an “unusual solution” as no former U.S. presidents have agreed to take on subordinate roles for subsequent presidential administrations.
“Obama certainly would be unprecedented, but so is the need,” Kmiec wrote. “We have never had a former president take on the leadership of an executive department for a successor president, but nothing precludes it, save, possibly, Michelle Obama. We must leave those domestic relations to the former president — but he has the intelligence, youth and character to do the job.”
Kmiec then wrote that having Obama to join his former running mate’s administration would also serve as “perfect preparation for subsequent additional public service on the Supreme Court.”
The prospect of Biden naming Obama to the Supreme Court would also be unusual, as only one other U.S. president has gone on to fill one of the lifetime Supreme Court seats, William H. Taft.
Thus far, Obama does not appear to be a contender for Biden’s pick as attorney general. Sources familiar with the Biden transition team have told CNN that Biden’s top contenders include outgoing Democratic Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, federal Judge Merrick Garland, and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. The Associated Press separately reported Biden had also considered New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, though Cuomo told Spectrum News he plans to remain governor through the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.