USA Today reports that former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is considering U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, to head the U.S. Department of Justice in the Biden administration. Jones is among the top contenders to be Biden’s choice as attorney general, USA Today reported, according to their sources.
Jones served as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama for President Bill Clinton.
Also under consideration is the current Democratic National Committee chairman, Tom Perez. Perez formerly served as assistant attorney general for civil rights for President Barack Obama and as Obama’s secretary of labor.
Another contender is reportedly Sally Yates, a former deputy attorney general under Obama. She was briefly held over by the Trump administration but was fired by Trump for refusing to support his controversial ban on immigration from certain Muslim countries.
Jones is a native of Fairfield where his father and grandfather worked in the steel industry. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama and Samford’s Cumberland School of Law. Jones served as a top aid to U.S. Sen. Howell Heflin, D-Alabama.
As U.S. attorney, Jones gained renown for his successful prosecution of two former members of the United Klans of America, a Ku Klux Klan organization, for the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. Killed in the bombing were Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, Addie Mae Collins and Denise McNair, all children.
A May 13, 1965, memo to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover identified Robert “Dynamite Bob” Edward Chambliss, Bobby Frank Cherry, Thomas E. Blanton Jr. and Herman Frank Cash as likely suspects in the bombing, but Hoover shut down the investigation in 1968.
Then-Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley reopened the case in 1971. Chambliss was convicted in 1977. Cash died in 1994 and was never charged with anything. The original FBI agents investigating the case recruited a Cherry and Blanton associate, Mitchell Burns, as an informant. Burns made a long series of tape recordings of his conversations with Cherry and Blanton. That evidence was misplaced so was not available for Baxley’s 1970s investigation.
The FBI rediscovered the lost evidence in 1997. Jones seized on the new evidence and began building a very comprehensive case on Cherry and Blanton that included a number of witnesses. President George W. Bush allowed Jones to stay on to complete his prosecutions of Cherry and Blanton in the early 2000s for the bombings.
After leaving the Department of Justice, Jones had a successful private practice. In 2017, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, left his seat to accept a position as Trump’s attorney general. Jones ran in the special election for the seat, narrowly defeating former Chief Justice Roy Moore, a Republican, in the December special general election. Jones remains the only Democrat to win any statewide election in Alabama since Lucy Baxley in 2008.
In the Senate, Jones was honored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as the most bipartisan senator in the body. Jones served on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; the Senate Committee on Armed Services; and the Senate Special Committee on Aging.
Jones was an early endorser of Biden, who is a decades-long friend, and campaigned vigorously for him in the Alabama Democratic primary when the election was very much still in doubt.
Jones’s controversial decision to vote to convict Trump on both counts during his impeachment trial and his vote not to confirm both Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh likely doomed any hope that he had of being re-elected in very red Alabama, the eighth-most pro-Trump state in the country. But it did not hurt his standings with Senate Democrats.
Jones had little chance of beating popular former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville in a presidential election year with Trump at the top of the ticket. Tuberville is now Alabama’s senator-elect.
Jones has had a close working relationship with Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, as well as moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine with whom he jointly sponsored several pieces of legislation. Jones’s confirmation would likely be very non-contentious and sail through the confirmation process even if Republicans do maintain control of the Senate after two Jan. 5 runoff elections in Georgia.