It set a record for the longest wait, but President Donald Trump has finally nominated a candidate for U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. And the name is a familiar one.
On Friday, Trump officially nominated William Hyslop to again become the top federal prosecutor for all of Washington east of the Cascades. Hyslop previously held the same post from 1991-93 after he was nominated by President George H.W. Bush.
“I’m looking forward to continuing to support our justice system and working with the fine people at the U.S. Justice Department,” Hyslop said.
Hyslop, 68, has practiced law in the Spokane area for 39 years. He’s a longtime principal at the lawfirm Lukins & Annis and served as president of the Washington State Bar Association in 2015-16.
As for history repeating itself, Hyslop also served Eastern Washington at the same time current U.S. Attorney General William Barr served the same role under Bush. Hyslop may be working under the same boss if his nomination is approved by the Senate.
“I certainly have met (Barr) and served as U.S. Attorney at some of the same time when he was the Attorney General,” Hyslop said.
However, Hyslop’s return trip took a long wait. Generally, presidents have appointed most U.S. attorneys within months of their elections to ensure that their policies are carried out throughout the country.
For instance, after President Barrack Obama took office in January, 2009, he appointed Mike Ormsby on March 3, 2010. Ormsby wasn’t confirmed until Oct. 1, 2010, which was one of the longest previous periods between election and nomination.
But Hyslop’s nomination comes well into Trump’s third year in office. At one point, Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell, 65, was thought to be the front runner, but the process took so long that he backed out so he could run again for county office.
“Who knew that it would be even this long,” Haskell said. “I determined early on that the best way to serve the county was right here. As long as I’m healthy and I enjoy coming to work and voters will keep me here, I’ll stay.”
As for Hyslop, who earned his undergraduate degree from Washington State University, a graduate degree from the University of Washington and his law degree from Gonzaga, Haskell said he looks forward to working with him.
“I think a close association with his office and our office, and being able to use the resources of both, will better protect and serve the citizens of Spokane County,” he said.
Another potential candidate was former Spokane County District Court Judge Vance Peterson. He retired in January at the age of 66.
“Bill Hyslop is a great attorney,” Peterson said. “He did the job before, and he’ll do a wonderful job the next time out.”
Hyslop would supplant Joseph Harrington, who became acting U.S. attorney on March 10, 2017, after Trump fired Ormsby along with 45 other Obama-appointed U.S. attorneys on the same day. It is not unusual for incoming presidents to dismiss U.S. attorneys appointed by their predecessor.
Then in April 2018, Harrington was appointed to the post through the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which allowed him to be nominated by former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and approved by a vote of federal judges.
Harrington “has been the rudder of the ship there for years,” Peterson said. “The people of Eastern Washington have been well served by him and his capacities at the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”
Harrington, 62, has been a federal prosecutor for 29 years and worked four years prior for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He declined to comment Monday, saying that Justice Department guidelines prohibit him from commenting on nominations.
When asked about the future of Harrington, Hyslop responded: “I don’t know. He’s a fine individual.”
While the nomination is now in, the wait for confirmation now begins.
Last May, Trump nominated Brian Moran to become U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington. Moran previously had worked 15 years as a deputy attorney general under both Republican Rob McKenna and Democrat Christine Gregoire.
Even with bipartisan support, Moran waited about eight months and wasn’t confirmed until four months ago.
Hyslop said he’s not worried about how long the confirmation process will take.
“That’s obviously controlled by the powers that be on the East Coast,” Hyslop said. “I just look forward to the Senate confirmation process, however it approaches.”
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