Attorney General Jeff Sessions has tapped Justice Department official Zachary Terwilliger to serve as US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, he announced Thursday.
Terwilliger has been serving as associate deputy attorney general and chief of staff under Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein -- the number two at the department who is overseeing the Russia investigation.
Sources told CNN, however, that Terwilliger was not involved in the Russia probe, and instead has been focused on affirmative department priorities, including combating violent crime, MS-13, and management of the department.
"Zach Terwilliger has a strong record that any prosecutor would be proud of," Sessions said in a statement. "He rose through the ranks in the Eastern District of Virginia, from summer intern to Assistant United States Attorney who made a name for himself successfully prosecuting MS-13 members, Bloods members, and firearm offenders and putting them behind bars."
A career federal prosecutor by training, Terwilliger will now be tasked with leading one of the most a high-profile jurisdictions in the nation, handling terrorism and espionage cases, but also where former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort faces criminal charges.
Neil MacBride, who formerly served US attorney in the district and hired Terwilliger, told CNN that he has "great respect for the independence and tradition of the Justice Department."
"He gets that it is the only Executive Branch agency with a moral virtue in its title," MacBride said. "He has a great combination of courtroom trial experience, Main DOJ policy making and management experience, and natural leadership abilities to hit the ground running."
Sessions made the appointment himself, as he has with several others, pursuant to a statute that will allow Terwilliger to serve for 120 days. At that point, he can be formally appointed by the district court (if not already nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate).
Terwilliger has already received the endorsement of both of Virginia's Democratic senators, who recently submitted his name as their sole recommendation. The senators received a stack of letters supporting his nomination, praising his skills as a trial lawyer and reputation for fairness.
The Major County Sheriffs of America said his "commitment to the rule of law, victim advocacy and holding criminals accountable is unparalleled as it is impressive."
Terwilliger will also now fall in the Justice Department's line of succession -- coming after Assistant Attorney general John Demers, who heads the National Security Division.
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