WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's pick to take over the No. 3 position at the Justice Department has decided to withdraw her name from consideration amid opposition to her years-old ties to a national organization of women lawyers that supported abortion rights, a department spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Jessie Liu opted to take herself out of contention for the role of associate attorney general after Senator Mike Lee, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, opposed her affiliation with the National Association of Women's Lawyers, said a person familiar with her decision.
Liu served as the vice president and president-elect of the organization, which consistently took a stance in support of abortion rights, in 2005 to 2006, according to a source familiar with Liu's decision.
The group also put out a letter at that time opposing the staunchly conservative Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court, though Liu did not sign it, the source said.
With Lee opposing Liu's nomination, the Justice Department does not believe she will draw enough votes to secure her confirmation.
As a result, Liu will remain in her position as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and has been nominated to lead Attorney General Barr's advisory committee.
"While we believe the criticisms of Jessie are unfair, she did not want her nomination to become a distraction at this critical time for the department," said Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec.
Lee could not immediately be reached.
Liu had not been formally nominated, but Trump was planning to do so, a senior U.S. official told NBC News earlier this month.
The No. 3 position at DOJ has been open since February 2018 when Rachel Brand left to take a position as a lawyer for Walmart.