Senator Will No Longer Block Department of Justice Nominees

Department of Justice Sign
Mark Van Scyoc /

WASHINGTON: Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said last Thursday that he will stop blocking Department of Justice nominees. The senator had been blocking the nominees in response to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement that he was giving federal prosecutors permission to target people in legal marijuana states.

ABC News reported Thursday that Gardner will stop blocking nominations for the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, U.S. Attorneys, and U.S. Marshalls. The senator said that he was feeling optimistic after recent discussions with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Gardner made a statement on Thursday saying that the Department of Justice had shown a willingness to compromise and that "as sort of a good faith gesture on my behalf, I’ll be releasing a limited number of nominees.” For the time being, the senator will continue his blockade of 7 Justice Department nominees.

Sessions Recently Condemned Gardner's Blockade

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had been critical of Gardner's blockade, saying earlier this week that Gardner was impeding national security by holding up the nominations. Sessions said that he was frustrated by the blockade and remarked on Gardner's bad judgment.

According to The Denver Post, nominees of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) were approved by the Senate just a few short hours after Gardner made the announcement on Thursday. The U.S. Senate also confirmed John Demers as the Head of the National Security Division.

The National Security Division is part of the Department of Justice and oversees espionage, terrorism, and foreign surveillance operations.

The conflict between the two men started when Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo in early January. The Cole Memo was a policy written during the Obama Administration protecting states with legal marijuana from federal prosecution under certain conditions. Gardner immediately voiced his anger by threatening to block all Department of Justice nominees.

The senator said that Sessions had in 2017 promised him that he would honor the Cole Memo and not interfere in marijuana enforcement at the state level.

Bipartisan Bill Could Stop Federal Interference

The announcement comes on the same day that a bipartisan bill was introduced in the House to protect state rights, including marijuana laws, according to The Hill. The Sensible Enforcement of Cannabis Act was introduced by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) on Thursday, and the legislation would limit the ability of the Attorney General and Justice Department to prosecute patients and consumers in medical marijuana states as well as states with legal recreational marijuana.

Correa said that Sessions' decision to rescind the Cole Memo has caused fear and uncertainty for business owners and people living in legal marijuana states, adding that the decision puts residents in danger of prosecution simply for abiding by state law.

Gaetz made a statement saying that the Cole Memo was a good policy but unfortunately, it was not passed by Congress.

Gaetz said that we can't pick which laws to enforce, adding that the federal law needs to change. "When federal law conflicts with state laws and the will of the American people, it's time to change the laws," he said.

Gardner would not say if Rosenstein had promised him that the Department of Justice would not target legal marijuana businesses during their discussions. However, the senator felt confident that acting Colorado U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer would continue to refrain from prosecuting people operating within the regulated marijuana market and focus resources on serious crimes.

Democratic Party of Colorado spokesman Eric Walker told the press that Gardner has lost all of his bargaining power without getting any guarantees from the Justice Department in return and called him a fool for trusting a known liar.