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Biden considering Lisa Monaco, Sally Yates for attorney general

Then Assistant Attorney General for National Security Lisa Monaco speaking at her installation ceremony with fellow Assistant Attorney general Virginia Seitz in Washington, DC, USA, 30 September 2011.
Then Assistant Attorney General for National Security Lisa Monaco speaking at her installation ceremony with fellow Assistant Attorney general Virginia Seitz in Washington, DC, USA, 30 September 2011.DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

(Bloomberg) -- The Biden transition team is weighing attorney general contenders led by Lisa Monaco, who held key national security posts in the Obama administration, and Sally Yates, who gained fame when she was fired by President Donald Trump, according to people familiar with the matter.

The choice of either would help President-elect Joe Biden achieve his goal of having women represented at the highest levels of his administration.

Other candidates under consideration include Alabama Senator Doug Jones, who lost his re-election bid this month, and former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, one person said.

Monaco and Yates both had extensive careers inside the Justice Department and previously held positions that required Senate confirmation. But her history of tussling with the Trump White House might make Yates’s approval harder if the Senate is still controlled by Republicans.

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Monaco declined to comment, while Yates and officials with Biden’s transition team didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Monaco, 52, spent 15 years in the Justice Department during the Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama administrations. In 2011 she became the first woman to lead the department’s national security division. In 2013, President Barack Obama selected her to serve as White House homeland security and counterterrorism adviser.

Biden’s team is considering nominating Monaco as attorney general and Neil MacBride as deputy attorney general, one of the people said. MacBride, 55, served as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia during the Obama administration. The office oversees some of the most significant and complicated terrorism and national security cases.

Monaco worked for Biden when he chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, while MacBride served as his chief counsel and staff director on the panel.

Monaco also is under consideration to become director of national intelligence or secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, another person said. Other names that have been floated for the director of national intelligence post include Robert Cardillo, former director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and Alejandro Mayorkas, who previously served as the department’s deputy director.

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Yates is a 27-year veteran of the Justice Department chosen by Obama to be deputy attorney general in 2015. In that role she was responsible for overseeing 113,000 employees and all U.S. attorneys and major components of the agency. Prior to that, she was the first woman to serve as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.

Yates, 60, became acting attorney general in the early days of the Trump administration. Shortly thereafter, she ordered the department to not defend Trump’s executive order restricting travel to the U.S. from seven majority-Muslim countries, saying it was unlawful. She was immediately fired by Trump.

Yates also tangled with the Trump administration over Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser. She informed the White House that Flynn hadn’t been truthful about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. and was vulnerable to blackmail as a result. Flynn was eventually removed and charged by the FBI for lying about those talks.

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