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From Antitrust Law Daily, April 26, 2017

Confirmation hearing on antitrust chief nominee postponed

By Jeffrey May, J.D.

Makan Delrahim, President Trump’s nominee to serve as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, had been expected to testify today at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. However, his testimony was unexpectedly delayed. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) explained that consideration of Delrahim's nomination had to be rescheduled because the committee was still waiting for some paperwork that the chair thought the committee would have in time for the hearing. That paperwork was not identified. The scheduled hearing went on to consider the nomination of Judge Amul R. Thapar to be United States Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit.

The delay apparently was a surprise for lawmakers. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D.-Minn.), ranking member of the Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, said that she had not found out about the "snag" until this morning. She noted that she had spent yesterday evening preparing antitrust questions for the assistant attorney general nominee. She joked that she might ask her prepared antitrust questions to Judge Thapar.

Grassley suggested that there would be an effort to consider Delrahim’s nomination at the next hearing. Delrahim’s nomination was received by the Senate on April 6.

Trump officially announced his intention to nominate Delrahim on March 28. However, rumors that Delrahim, a Trump-Pence transition team member, was Trump’s pick for antitrust chief had circulated for weeks prior to that.

Delrahim has significant antitrust experience. He previously served in the Antitrust Division during the administration of President George W. Bush. In addition, he served as Staff Director and Chief Counsel of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. More recently, Delrahim has worked as a partner at a national law firm in Los Angeles and adjunct professor of law at Pepperdine University.

In light of his recent stint in the private sector, some have raised concerns about Delrahim’s future role in reviewing transactions involving past clients. Delrahim pledged to recuse himself from any matter in which the Department of Justice ethics office advised him to do so or any other matter in which it was required.

Acting antitrust agency heads. While Delrahim’s nomination is pending, Andrew C. Finch has been serving as acting assistant attorney general. At the FTC, Maureen K. Ohlhausen has been serving as acting chairman. A number of reports have identified Sean D. Reyes, Utah’s Attorney General, as Trump's intended nominee for FTC chairman. Rumors about Reyes being tapped to take the helm of the FTC have grown increasingly louder in recent weeks. In the meantime, Ohlhausen has been pursuing an agenda that appears to be in line with Trump’s regulatory reform ideas. Just last week, she launched initiatives in response to the president’s directives for agencies to eliminate "wasteful, unnecessary regulations and processes."

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