Toomey urges Senate to vote against Debo Adegbile

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., urged his fellow senators to oppose the appointment of Debo Adegbile as the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights during a conference call this morning.

Adegbile, an attorney, has drawn criticism for representing Mumia Abu-Jamal during the convicted-killer’s appeals process. Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing Daniel Faulkner, a Philadelphia police officer, in 1981. His conviction has garnered considerable controversy; many groups and individuals argue Abu-Jamal did not receive a fair trial.

Abu-Jamal’s death sentence was thrown out in 2001 when a federal judge ruled that instruction to the jury were unconstitutional. Adegbile was part of a team of lawyers that filed a brief with the Supreme Court in 2009 arguing that Abu-Jamal’s conviction was invalid because of racial discrimination during jury selection.

The Senate is scheduled to vote to end the debate on Adegbile’s candidacy tomorrow. A second vote will follow to confirm his selection.

“I think this is a very, very poor choice,” Toomey said. “I have been very aggressively making that case to my colleagues. I hope that he will not be confirmed.”

Toomey said Adegbile chose to devote resources to perpetrating and perpetuating a false narrative about Abu-Jamal, who Toomey labeled a “cold-blooded murderer.”

Asked whether it is fair to penalize Adegbile for providing a convicted-killer with his right to an attorney, Toomey claimed Abu-Jamal attracted “more lawyers than he needed.” Toomey said lawyers were volunteering to associate themselves with a celebrity case.

“There is absolutely no dispute – certainly not in my mind – that an accused person deserves competent defense,” Toomey said. “That is true in the trial stage and that is true in the appellate stage. But that is not what this about.”

Toomey is joined in opposition by U.S. Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa. Toomey said the opposition of Pennsylvania senators will carry some weight, but was not optimistic enough support would be gathered to vote down Adegbile.

Toomey claimed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, enabled appointments to be confirmed without broad support by reducing the threshold needed to confirm a nominee. Previously, 60 votes were necessary; now only 51 are needed.

“This is exactly the danger that the Senate courted when it chose to change the rules so that a simple majority could jam through a confirmation without any input from the minority,” Toomey said. “The president was always under some pressure to find a broadly-supported candidate.”

Toomey has been ardent in his opposition to the appointment of Adegbile, publishing op-eds in various newspapers, including the Delaware County Daily Times.

Casey released a statement last week outlining his opposition of Adegbile’s appointment.

“I believe that every person nominated by the President of the United States for a high level position such as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights should be given fair and thoughtful consideration as senators discharge their responsibility of ‘advise and consent,'” his statement said. “I respect that our system of law ensures the right of all citizens to legal representation no matter how heinous the crime. At the same time, it is important that we ensure that Pennsylvanians and citizens across the country have full confidence in their public representatives – both elected and appointed.

“The vicious murder of Officer Faulkner in the line of duty and the events that followed in the 30 years since his death have left open wounds for Maureen Faulkner and her family as well as the City of Philadelphia. After carefully considering this nomination and having met with both Mr. Adegbile as well as the Fraternal Order of Police, I will not vote to confirm the nominee.”

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