President Donald Trump’s decision to abruptly withdraw a Treasury Department nomination for Jessie Liu, the former US attorney who headed the office that oversaw Roger Stone’s prosecution, was directly tied to her former job, CNN has learned.
While head of the US Attorney’s Office in Washington, Liu inherited many of the major ongoing cases from Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation and was also handling the politically charged case of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, a frequent target of Trump’s ire who is also a CNN contributor.
As Trump and administration officials weighed pulling Liu’s nomination to serve as the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial crimes, a central factor in the talks was how she had run the US Attorney’s Office. The problem wasn’t that she necessarily did anything wrong, one person familiar with the thinking said, but that she didn’t do more to get involved in those cases.
Initially it wasn’t clear that Liu’s nomination was pulled due to the handling of the politically sensitive cases, but CNN has now confirmed it was. Trump made the final decision to pull the nomination two days before her scheduled confirmation hearing.
Liu stepped down from her job before she was confirmed to the Treasury position, an unusual move. That office is now run by Tim Shea, a close adviser to Attorney General Bill Barr.
According to a separate source familiar with the situation, despite multiple warnings from people around her that there was a campaign actively working against her, Liu was blindsided when her second potential nomination in a year fell apart.
The White House dismissed concerns from a group of conservative lawyers about her nomination, but remained hung up over her role overseeing the politically charged cases in the US Attorney’s Office. It was the Stone sentencing recommendation that moved Trump to pull the nomination.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told lawmakers Wednesday he was informed about the Liu decision two days ago.
“I believe it was two days ago,” he said when asked by Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the President’s budget.
Brown asked Mnuchin why she was withdrawn a few days before she was expected to show up for her confirmation hearing and referred to the nixed nomination as part of the President’s “retribution tour.”
“Nominations are at the President’s direction,” said Mnuchin, who declined to provide further comment.
CNN’s Kristen Holmes and Donna Borak contributed to this report.