Ted Cruz says Joe Biden snubbed choice of bipartisan U.S. attorney for East Texas

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Cruz said the White House snubbed a U.S. attorney pick backed by GOP senators from Texas and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas, Texas’s top Democrat in Congress, and urged the president to reconsider his decision.

Damien Diggs, a career prosecutor in the Dallas-based Northern District of Texas, would be the first black attorney to lead federal law enforcement in the Eastern District, which stretches from Plano to Beaumont.

“Mr. Diggs’ candidacy has strong bipartisan support,” Cruz wrote to White House attorney Stuart Delery. Diggs’ selection would be particularly important given that James Byrd, Jr. was murdered in the Eastern District in 1998 after being dragged to death, and remnants of the Ku Klux Klan were operating in the area as recently as in the 1990s.”

The White House on Monday declined to publicly respond to the letter and did not publicly explain its reservations about Diggs.

Cruz’s office declined to say what Biden aides told them.

“Based on the inadequate explanation of your opposition we have received to date, I strongly urge you to reconsider your opposition to Mr. Diggs’ candidacy,” Cruz wrote in the letter dated Oct. 13. “This administration has the opportunity to not only appoint an experienced federal prosecutor to this key position, but to appoint the first African-American United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas. would send a strong and positive message about how far we have come as a nation.

On Friday, the White House announced the appointments of U.S. attorneys for the other three districts in Texas.

Along with Diggs, they are backed by Cruz and Senator John Cornyn and have been recommended by a selection panel of Texas attorneys who jointly advise them on judicial appointments.

Appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

Damien Diggs, assistant U.S. attorney in Dallas, in September 2018, photo by the Department of Justice. Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn have urged President Joe Biden to appoint him U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas.(US Department of Justice)

All four were also on acceptable pick lists submitted by Johnson. She has been a key player in those nominations when Democrats are presidents.

Cruz called Diggs a “stellar candidate” and said the president’s apparent reluctance to appoint him was “puzzling.”

Diggs joined the Dallas Criminal Division’s violent crimes section four years ago after a stint with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the nation’s capital, where he handled homicides and other criminal matters. Prior to that, he worked at the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

He graduated from Towson University in suburban Baltimore and received his law degree from American University in 2003.

During the 2020 election, Diggs oversaw complaints in the Northern District related to voter fraud and voting rights.

That same year, he secured guilty pleas from three gun dealers who sold guns at Dallas-area gun shows without performing background checks on the buyers. The Northern District also touted convictions in which he was involved in bank fraud and child pornography cases.

Cruz noted that Diggs is the Safe Neighborhoods Project coordinator for the office, “teaming up with state and local authorities to target the ‘worst of the worst’ violent offenders in our Texas communities and bring them to justice.”

The Northern District has been led by an acting U.S. attorney since January 2021, when Trump appointee Erin Nealy Cox resigned.

On Friday, Biden nominated Leigha Simonton to replace her.

A graduate of Yale Law School, Simonton has been a prosecutor in that office since 2005 and its top appellate attorney.

Among her most high-profile cases, she unsuccessfully tried to send Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price to jail in 2017 for bribery and tax evasion. In 2014, she was part of the team that won convictions against former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill and others in the City Hall corruption case.

For the San Antonio-based Western District, Biden’s pick is Jaime Esparza, the El Paso County prosecutor for 27 years. Before leaving that office in 2020, he secured a capital murder indictment against Patrick Crusius, the gunman who targeted Hispanics and killed 23 people during the August 2019 Walmart rampage.

For the Southern District of Houston, Biden named another career prosecutor, Alamdar Hamdani, an assistant U.S. attorney in that office for eight years who previously worked at the Justice Department on national security and counterterrorism cases.

“Serving as chief attorney and senior law enforcement officer in these districts is no small role, but Jaime, Alamdar and Leigha have the experience necessary to be successful American attorneys,” said Cornyn said Monday in a written statement that did not mention Diggs’ omission from the nomination list. “I was proud to recommend each of them for these positions with Senator Cruz, and I look forward to watching them ensure the government is well represented in Texas courtrooms.”

Cruz said all of them, including Diggs, “are knowledgeable, experienced, and have the respect of the bench, the bar, and their community.”

Biden has now appointed US attorneys for 63 of the country’s 93 districts.

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