SAINT PAUL, Minn. - Ramsey County Attorney John Choi defended President Obama's choice for Federal Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Director on Friday. B. Todd Jones has been U.S. Attorney for Minnesota since 2009.
On Wednesday, former Minneapolis FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Donald Oswald sent a blistering letter to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold confirmation hearings on Jones' appointment to ATF Director. The ATF has not had a permanent Director confirmed by the Senate for six years.
Oswald's letter reads, in part, that Jones "was, and still remains, a significant impediment for federal law enforcement to effectively protect the citizens of Minnesota from violent gang, drug and gun activities."
Oswald, who is now retired from the FBI and a practicing attorney in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, contends that he is "one of the few voices able to publically express our complete disappointment with Mr. Jones' ineffective leadership and poor service provided....without fear of retaliation or retribution from him."
Oswald contends that Jones "reacted defensively and often spoke to us disrespectfully..." at monthly meetings with other law enforcement officials.
Choi's take on such meetings was different. "I know that discussions have been happening, but whenever you try to manage that change and you try to make new priorities happen, there is always going to be some road bumps and, I think that is probably really what is going on here," said Choi.
Oswald, who did not return calls for further comment, contends in the letter that there have been an "increase in significant gang and drug cases being referred by federal agencies to Dakota, Hennepin and Ramsey counties for prosecution in state court. This trend is indicative of Mr. Jones' low-level support to federal law enforcement in the violent crime, gang and drug arenas..."
Choi sees the situation differently. "It is really more of a state's issue and so, first of all, I think we should start with the premise that it probably, appropriately belongs in state court." Choi notes that Oswalds letter found "adequate outcomes" in state courts for the cases.
Oswald attacks Jones' performance directly. "I, and many others, have concluded B. Todd Jones is substantially motivated by personal political gain and not by doing what's in the best interest of the citizens he is sworn to protect."
Choi, by contrast, called Jones "very smart" and a man of "great integrity." Choi said he believes Jones' will make a great ATF chief.
B. Todd Jones' office said he was precluded from commenting on Oswald's letter as he faces confirmation hearings as ATF Director in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Both Minnesota Senators Klobuchar and Franken are members of that committee.