Obama Appointment of Debo Adegbile Seen as ‘Kick in Teeth to Cops’

Sen. Toomey, police union chief slam Obama's appointment of Mumia Abu-Jamal's attorney

Debo Adegbile

Debo Adegbile / AP

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President Obama's decision to appoint Debo Adegbile, a top lawyer for cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal whose nomination to the Justice Department was rejected by the Senate in 2014, to a federal commission was met with harsh criticism from Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) and a top official at the nation's largest police union, who called it a "kick in the teeth to the cops."

The Obama administration announced on Thursday that it was nominating Adegbile for a six-year term on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Unlike its appointment of Adegbile in 2014 to chair the Justice Department Civil Rights Division, this nomination does not require approval from the Senate.

Adegbile became the first Obama appointment that was rejected after Senate Democrats pushed through the "nuclear option" to eliminate the possibility of filibustering nominees, allowing for appointments to get through the Senate with only a simple majority.

Seven Democrats joined Senate Republicans to block the nomination in a 52-47 vote after concerns were raised about Adegbile's role in defending Abu-Jamal, who murdered Philadelphia cop Daniel Faulkner and has been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

John McNesby, president of the Fraternal Order of Police's chapter in Philadelphia, lashed out at the Obama administration over the appointment, calling it "Obama's goodbye present to police across the nation."

"That's just the old kick in the teeth to the cops," McNesby said during an appearance on the Dom Giordano Show on Friday morning. "I guess it's Obama's goodbye present to police across the nation."

McNesby said that he saw the appointment as "payback to the FOP" and vowed that he would push the incoming Trump administration to fight it.

"This was definitely payback to the FOP through the appointment," McNesby said. "This guy was Mumia's sugar daddy through the appeal process—he did everything and financed the whole thing."

"I don't know whether he can be un-appointed but that will be one of our first orders of business when we go down and meet with the new administration in January," he said. "I don't know whether that can be done, but we are sure as hell going to try."

McNesby guaranteed that his members will be outraged when they hear about the appointment and raised the possibility that the incoming Trump administration could shut down funding to the Commission on Civil Rights over the appointment.

The International Union of Police Associations, a member organization of the AFL-CIO, also condemned the appointment on Friday.

"President Obama has, once again, gone out of his way to demonstrate his utter distain for our nation's law enforcement officers," said Sam Cabral, the union's president, in a Friday statement.

Cabral said that Adegbile "spread lies, spouted racism, and maligned the Philadelphia police in his failed efforts to overcome justice and portray this vicious murderer as, somehow, the victim."

The unions will have an ally in Sen. Toomey, who said in a Friday statement that the appointment "is a slap in the face to every law enforcement officer in America."

"In 2014, a bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate agreed that Debo Adegbile was not fit to represent the people of the United States in enforcing Americans' civil rights," Toomey said.

"Mr. Adegbile did not simply defend a client," Toomey said. "He supervised an effort to lionize unrepentant cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal, who cold-bloodedly murdered Philadelphia police officer Danny Faulkner 35 years ago."

"Mr. Adegbile supervised the effort to spread misinformation about the trial and evidence, fabricate claims of racism, malign Philly police, and organize rallies across the globe that portrayed this brutal cop-killer as the victim," he said. "A Democrat-led U.S. Senate evaluated the facts and agreed that Debo Adegbile is not fit to represent the American people as an enforcer of civil rights."

Toomey called on Obama to withdraw his appointment of Adegbile.

UPDATE 4:25 p.m.: This post has been updated to include statements made by the International Union of Police Associations.

Brent Scher   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Brent Scher is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He graduated from the University of Virginia, where he studied foreign affairs and politics.