Previously, the award has been given to terrorism, human trafficking and other criminal prosecution teams.
The Justice Department is giving its second-highest award for employee performance to the attorneys involved in Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court last year. In contrast, previous recipients worked on terrorism, human trafficking and other criminal prosecutions.
Attorney General William Barr next month will present the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service for the attorneys who “worked to support the nomination” of Kavanaugh, according to a report from The New York Times on Friday. Usually, the award is “given to employees who worked on significant prosecutions, rather than on judicial nomination processes,” the outlet reported.
“What a joke,” former federal prosecutor Elie Honig tweeted in response. “This prestigious award typically goes to prosecutors who make the biggest cases against terrorists, corrupt politicians, drug cartels, organized crime enterprises, etc.”
The former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics also raised objections. “[The Justice Department is] celebrating a partisan success, rather than objective service,” Walter Shaub tweeted. “Outside the context of partisan ambition, this was not an important assignment.”
In recent years, the award has been given to: U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia employees and FBI agents who prosecuted the Libyan militia leader involved in the 2012 Benghazi attacks; the Washington Metro Child Exploitation Task Force that dismantled child exploitation and human trafficking in the Washington, D.C., area; and the team that prosecuted the former Blackwater USA security guards involved in the 2007 shooting in Baghdad that led to the deaths of 14 unarmed civilians.
In July 2018, then Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recruited federal prosecutors to help go through the lengthy paper trail Kavanaugh generated from years in public service. He expected he needed an equivalent of 100-full time lawyers, according to a New York Times report. At the time, some criticized the involvement of these federal prosecutors who are now receiving the award.
“It’s flat-out wrong to have career federal prosecutors engaged in a political process like the vetting of a Supreme Court nominee,” Christopher Hunter, a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor told The New York Times. “It takes them away from the mission they’re supposed to be fulfilling, which is effective criminal justice enforcement.”
The confirmation process started with a partisan disagreement over how many of Kavanaugh’s millions of records from the National Archives needed to be released and then was imperiled by the congressional testimony of Christine Blasey Ford in which she said he assaulted her when they were teenagers.
The news about this award comes as Kavanaugh’s sexual assault allegations are back in the spotlight. Many Democrats and presidential candidates are calling for Kavanaugh’s impeachment following the new reporting by The New York Times on sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. The Washington Post reported that Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., wrote a letter to the FBI last year describing the incident at the center of The New York Times piece, however the bureau did not investigate it.
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