BALTIMORE – With a new president inaugurated January 20, Maryland’s chief attorney must decide whether to try to become a political anomaly like his predecessor – a Republican US attorney who remains in a Democratic government.
Robert K. Hur is a 2017 appointed Republican President Donald Trump’s representative who fought violent crimes in Baltimore and led criminal proceedings against former Mayor Catherine Pugh and two state delegates.
Hur will decide “whether he wants to stay or what other aspirations he has in his professional life,” said US Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat who would examine US attorney candidates when a position is vacant and make recommendations to the whites House would set up.
As political representatives, the nation’s US attorneys almost always leave after the arrival of a new president, especially one of the rival political parties. Within two months of taking office in 2017, Trump had expelled all remaining US attorneys from the administration of Democrat Barack Obama.
Democratic President-elect Joe Biden has yet to signal his intentions or appoint an attorney general to head the Department of Justice.
“Many incoming administrations like to appoint people themselves,” said Maryland Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen. “Sen. Cardin and I will consult with the Biden administration to see what they think. I think Rob Hur did a good job. “
The soft spoken Hur, 47, said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun that it would be premature to discuss his intentions. All he said was that he was proud of his colleagues in the office and that “it was just an enormous honor and privilege to serve as a US attorney.”
Cardin suggested that he already knew Hur’s decision, but that – for now – it would remain a political secret.
The senator said he had “some conversations” about Hur’s future – he didn’t say who with.
“I don’t think I can publish the gist of it publicly. I think I understand his intentions and his availability. And on that basis we will – if necessary – fill this position, ”said Cardin.
It can take weeks or even months for new administrations to replace US attorneys.
Legal analysts say there would be no shortage of eager candidates if Hur goes.
“It’s a plum job,” said Richmond University law professor Carl Tobias. He said former US attorneys “tend to move back to larger firms and leverage their expertise” and that some venture into politics.
Officials on the Biden transition team had no comment this week.
Rod Rosenstein, succeeded by Hur as the state’s chief law enforcement officer, was one of the few US attorneys appointed by Republican President George W. Bush and carried on by the Obama administration. Rosenstein was the longest-serving U.S. attorney in the country when Trump named him number 2 in the Justice Department in 2017, where Hur was his best advisor.
“I think I understand his intentions and his availability. And on this basis we will – if necessary – fill this position. “
“Of 93 US lawyers, you may have five who stay if you want and the President wants you,” said Tobias. “It is situation-specific. Cardin is the one who knows best what is going to happen as a Senator – unless Biden and his people have something on their mind. “
At a time of extreme political bias in Washington, Hur and Rosenstein are “both reserved, very factual, very professional, very impartial,” Cardin said. “You work very well with state and local law enforcement agencies. They put emphasis on reducing violence in Baltimore and worked on gang activities. It was really a trust that does not always exist between the different levels of government. “
One of the people being prosecuted by Hur’s office is Pugh, who pleaded guilty in 2019 to fraud related to the Healthy Holly children’s book scandal. the former Del. Cheryl Glenn of Baltimore, who acknowledged a year ago that she had received bribes to perform political favors; and the former Del. Tawanna P. Gaines of Prince George’s County, who resigned in 2019 just before pleading guilty to using campaign funds for personal purposes.
All are Democrats, but Hur said in a recent interview with The Baltimore Sun that “Politics has not played a role in any of these matters. We follow facts and evidence wherever they lead. “
Cardin, who has accused Trump of politicizing the Justice Department for his own ends, said: “We have full confidence (Hur) to operate without political interference from Washington.”
The U.S. attorney’s crime-fighting priorities and strategies are important to Baltimore, which dwarfed 300 murders for the sixth consecutive year in 2020 and recorded more than 1,000 shootings in total.
In Hur, who oversees 98 US assistant attorneys and 73 auxiliaries, the city has an ally who is “very committed,” said Baltimore prosecutor Marilyn Mosby, a Democrat.
“He went to the community – me, he and the Baltimore Police Commissioner – and engaged citizens,” Mosby said. “I took a holistic approach to law enforcement from the start. It’s refreshing to have a partner who is taking the same approach at the federal level. “
Hur said his office includes a staff member who is trying to prevent people who come out of prison from “being thrown back into a world where there is absolutely no preparation, ideas or perspective.”
Mosby also noticed Hur’s regular appearances on WOLB-AM where he speaks directly to Baltimoreans. For example, in September 2019, he joined talk show host Larry Young to describe a “strike force” partnership with law enforcement officers at the federal, state and local levels targeting drug gangs and their suppliers. Baltimore was the 15th city to receive such a strike force.
“We’re moving in together,” said Hur to the audience at the various agencies. “I wish it could have happened sooner, but I’m glad it happened now.”
Hur’s office has also prosecuted corrupt correction officers and police officers, focusing on MS-13, which he has described as “one of the most violent and ruthless gangs on the street”.
Hur, who has a law degree from Stanford, served for US Supreme Court Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Alex Kozinski at the US 9th Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
A resident of Montgomery County, he was a longtime assistant to the US attorney handling financial and regulatory crime. He previously served in the Department of Justice as an advisor to the Deputy Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department, who was responsible for counterterrorism, corporate fraud and appeal matters.
Hur also worked twice for the King & Spalding law firm in Washington. During the first, he co-wrote two articles on white-collar crime with Christopher A. Wray, who is now the FBI director.
In 2016, he defended Vascular Solutions Inc., a medical device manufacturer that was charged with a misleading sales campaign on federal charges. The company was acquitted of all charges.
(Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.)
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