The three leading contenders for the post, Senator Doug Jones, Judge Merrick Garland and Sally Yates, claim the people skilled in the case after Jeh Johnson informed his allies late Tuesday that he did not serve in the Biden administration.
Jones, an Alabama senator who lost his race in November, is a leading candidate in the leadership of the Department of Justice, claiming people close to the case, especially his long-standing friendship with Biden and strong civil law experience. It also fits the pattern of multi-cabinet candidates: Biden turns to people with whom she has close relationships, is considered competent, and can stand on an easier path to reinforcement.
“Every sign points to Doug Jones,” a person close to the Biden shift tells CNN, but noted that Biden did not inform candidates of his final decision.
Garland, whose nomination to the Supreme Court has been blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the final year of the Obama administration, has also been under consideration for weeks. Some people who are close to the process say his candidacy has gotten heavier over the past week and he remains an option. However, his nomination faces more challenges than Jones, including a more complicated confirmation battle, the vacancy he would create for the DC Circuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals, and issues for civil rights groups.
Yates, the former deputy attorney general, is also likely to get harder confirmation than Jones. As a 30-year career in justice, it is also an open question as to whether he is best suited to lead the department in the post-Trump era. He stood by him during his time as deputy attorney general, while then-FBI director James Comey, who reported directly to him, repeatedly violated the Department of Justice’s policy of handling the Hillary Clinton email probe.
CNN has previously reported that Lisa Monaco, a former Obama White House security adviser who worked closely with Biden on her search for a vice president, is also under consideration as chief prosecutor. Deval Patrick, a former Massachusetts governor and former chief of civil rights in the Department of Justice, was also considered.
A temporary Biden official said no decision has been made yet and no official announcement is expected this week.
Johnson, who has been considered in several possible positions, will no longer run for the cabinet, say people skilled in the matter.
Johnson argued heavily for the Secretary of Defense and was one of the candidates the Attorney General looked at. He loved the Pentagon more than any other position, and when Lloyd Austin retired warlord was elected to that position, Johnson made it clear he was not joining Biden’s team.
Johnson served as Secretary of Homeland Security in the Obama administration, but an ally said he did not have a particularly close relationship with Bidendel.