U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) / Newscom

U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) / Newscom

Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) took to the Senate floor Wednesday to denounce one of President Obama’s most controversial appointments, saying Debo Adegbile’s ill-considered championing of a convicted cop killer disqualifies him from leading the Justice Department’s civil rights operation.

“There are many highly qualified Americans who can carry out this critical mission,” Toomey said. “Mr. Adegbile’s record creates serious doubts that he is one of them.”

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Toomey asked fellow senators to join him in opposing Obama’s nomination of Adegbile, former litigation chief for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, as assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. The Senate Judiciary Committee, which Adegbile, 46, currently serves as senior counsel, last week approved him by a 10-8 party-line vote and sent the nomination to the full Senate.

Toomey and other opponents – among them Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams, a Democrat – contend that Adegbile led a NAACP legal team that sought to get former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal off death row by deceiving the public. They say Adegbile perverted justice for the family of Daniel Faulkner, the 25-year-old police officer gunned down by Abu-Jamal on a Philadelphia street in 1981. Faulkner’s widow unsuccessfully appealed to the Judiciary Committee before its vote.

Toomey stood next to an oversize black and white  photo of Faulkner on the Senate floor as he described eyewitness accounts of how Abu-Jamal shot the police officer in the back before killing him with a bullet through the face after he fell to the pavement.

After the NAACP Legal Defense Fund joined the case in 2009, Adegbile’s tactics helped get Abu-Jamal’s 1982 death sentence overturned on a technicality in 2011. Abu-Jamal, now 58, is doing life at a state prison in Schuylkill County, Pa.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett last week was joined by a predecessor, fellow Republican Tom Ridge, in urging the Senate to reject Obama’s pick.  “Mr. Adegbile pushed the boundaries of appropriate advocacy in supporting the cause of a convicted murderer,” Corbett said.

Ridge, who signed Abu-Jamal’s death warrant in 1995, echoed Toomey in saying the notorious killer — who came to be celebrated by activists on the left  –  enjoyed a well-funded legal team when Adegbile “chose to get involved.”

People for the American Way is among liberal groups that back Adegbile, calling him “one of this generation’s pre-eminent civil rights litigators.”

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, argued before the panel’s vote that even vicious killers are entitled to legal counsel and that Adegbile didn’t make the decision for the NAACP to join Abu-Jamal’s case some 27 years after the murder.

Because of a change of rules rammed through the Democrat-controlled Senate by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Republicans can’t filibuster the nomination. They will need to convince at least six Democratic colleagues to back away from Adegbile as too radical a choice to lead the Civil Rights Division.

An aide to Senator Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA) said he planned to meet with Adegbile and representatives of the Fraternal Order of Police, which is fighting the nomination, before deciding how to vote.

Watch Toomey’s full remarks:


This story was produced by The Foundry’s news team. Nothing here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation.