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Heitkamp sees no need for new US attorney in North Dakota

N.D. Senator Heidi Heitkamp speaks during a question-and-anbswer session Wednesday afternoon with the Grand Forks Herald editorial board. Nick Nelson / Forum News Service1 / 2
Chris Myers2 / 2

BISMARCK — Sen. Heidi Heitkamp doesn’t “see a need” for a new U.S. attorney in North Dakota as long as Chris Myers stays on the job, she said in a statement issued Wednesday evening, Aug. 8.

The statement puts the first-term Democrat at odds with Republican Sen. John Hoeven, who has recommended former U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley to be the state’s top federal prosecutor once again. Wrigley held the position from 2001 to 2009 before becoming the state’s Republican lieutenant governor.

Myers removed his name from consideration more than a year ago after Wrigley said he wanted his old job. Myers said he worried going through a political nomination would harm his employee benefits.

“As you are all aware, I am not a political person so haven't always been certain how to navigate this process, especially during the past week,” he said in an email to the congressional delegation in April 2017. “However, I've become increasingly concerned about how this situation may potentially impact the office that I truly care about and have decided that it would be best for all involved if I remove my name from consideration.”

A Myers spokesman said nothing had changed from last year’s letter. Myers will remain as U.S. attorney until someone else is nominated and confirmed, the spokesman said.

In a statement Wednesday, Heitkamp said Myers has been doing a “top-notch job,” highlighting drug investigations that have led to arrests and indictments.

“As long as Chris continues in that position, I don’t see a need for a change,” she said. A Heitkamp spokeswoman told the Bismarck Tribune last year that the senator was maintaining her support for Myers.

In an interview with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead’s editorial board this week, Heitkamp dismissed any rumors that she was holding up the Trump administration’s nominations as illogical.

A spokeswoman for Hoeven said Wednesday that his office recommended that the White House interview “several people” to succeed former U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson, who’s now a federal appeals court judge, as well as Wrigley for U.S. attorney.

“The White House has interviewed candidates for both positions and is finishing their process,” Hoeven spokeswoman Kami Capener said in an email. “Once the White House announces their nominees, we’ll work to confirm them in the Senate as quickly as possible.”

Wrigley declined to comment on Heitkamp’s statement Thursday. He said Wednesday he's been encouraged by the support he's received but was unaware of any timeline for the nomination.

Clare Hochhalter, a federal prosecutor in Bismarck who was endorsed by an association of North Dakota tribes last year, said Thursday he was unaware if he was in contention for the U.S. attorney job.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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