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Obama will nominate prosecutor to lead of ATF

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 17, 2013 at 11:32 am •  Published: January 17, 2013

Grassley has also raised concerns about Jones' "involvement" in what he called a "quid pro quo arrangement" dealing with false claims in St. Paul. Grassley and other Republicans allege an improper deal between the Justice Department and the city of St. Paul in which the department — against the advice of Jones' office and other career attorneys at Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development — agreed to drop two False Claims Act cases against the city in return for St. Paul dropping an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in an unrelated case.

The senator says it cost the government a chance to recover more than $180 million in taxpayer money.

Last July, Jones came under fire for statements he made in an internal video, in which he stressed the importance of following rules and said anyone who doesn't respect the chain of command and raise concerns to leadership would face "consequences."

In a letter to Jones, Grassley said the message could be interpreted as a threat to discourage whistleblowers from reporting problems. Jones responded that the video was meant to reinforce the importance of accountability: "At no time was I attempting to discourage, dissuade or prevent employees from making protected disclosures," he wrote Grassley.

In 2009, Jones was appointed U.S. attorney for Minnesota, more than a year after Rachel Paulose left amid a string of management problems. It was a position Jones had held previously, from 1998 to January 2001. Before his first appointment, he was an assistant federal prosecutor and a lead trial lawyer in several drug trafficking, firearms and violent crime cases.

Between his stints as U.S. attorney, Jones, a former Marine, was a partner at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, a major national law firm in Minneapolis where he reported earning $830,533 in 2008 and the first half of 2009, according to a financial statement filed in June 2009.

During Jones' public swearing-in ceremony as U.S. attorney in 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder said Jones had a "passion for justice" and would "restore the credibility of a department that was shaken by allegations of improper political interference."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said Jones is fair-minded and has "impeccable character."

"I have found Todd to be a seasoned, highly-respected law enforcement leader," Klobuchar said. "He has brought incredible focus, results, and integrity to each leadership position he has held, including as Acting Director of the ATF."

Jones lives in St. Paul and has continued to serve as U.S. attorney for Minnesota while serving as acting director of the ATF, spending about half of his time in Washington and half in Minnesota.

If Jones is confirmed as permanent director, Obama will nominate a new U.S. attorney for Minnesota.

Obama had nominated Andrew Traver, who heads the agency's field division, as ATF director in November 2010, but the nomination languished in the Senate.