Politics & Government

U.S. attorney change in N.C. raises questions about Easley, Edwards investigations

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration declined to say Tuesday whether Republican U.S. Attorney George Holding will be allowed to complete his investigations into two of North Carolina's most prominent Democrats, former Gov. Mike Easley and two-time presidential candidate John Edwards.

Late Monday, the White House announced Charlotte lawyer Thomas G. Walker as Obama's choice to take over as U.S. attorney for the state's Eastern District — making him first out of the gate among the state's three U.S. attorney slots and in line to be confirmed as soon as February.

The announcement came despite a request last summer from Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan to let Holding finish his investigative work. Her office reiterated Tuesday that her view hasn't changed.

Hagan may get the last say, though. As a home-state senator, she retains the right to delay or block Walker's nomination through an arcane Senate maneuver known as the "blue slip."

Hagan and Republican Sen. Richard Burr will be asked to give the Senate Judiciary Committee their views on Walker in the coming weeks through a form known as the blue slip. Hagan could delay her response or not respond at all.

On the other hand, she might already have received assurance that the investigations will continue, said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor who studies the Department of Justice.

"If there's resistance, she could put a hold on it. But that's just awkward," Tobias said. "It's your president, and your suggestion for the nominee. But I think maybe the White House and the Justice Department would be flexible about that, if that's what she wants."

Hagan was unavailable for comment Tuesday. The White House does not discuss nominees and declined to comment for this article.

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