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Biden decides nominee, but panel organized by senators interviews seven and recommends three with federal experience

Three lawyers, all of whom are current or former federal prosecutors, are on the short list of candidates forwarded by Oregon's two U.S. senators to be the next U.S. attorney for Oregon.

The decision is up to Attorney General Merrick Garland and President Joe Biden, who will nominate someone for confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Garland and Biden are not bound by the recommendations of a committee that Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley organized to interview seven candidates, but it is likely that the nominee will be one of the three candidates.

The U.S. attorney for the District of Oregon, the top federal prosecutor in the state, is based in Portland. There are branch offices in Eugene and Medford.

Listed in alphabetical order, and not singled out for a specific recommendation by the panel or the senators, are:

• Craig Gabriel, assistant U.S. attorney and chief of the criminal division for the office in Portland.

• Vivek Kothari, associate at the Portland law firm Markowitz Herbold and a former assistant U.S. attorney in Atlanta.

• Natalie Wight, assistant U.S. attorney and deputy chief of the organized and violent crime section for the office in Portland.

Whoever is nominated and confirmed would succeed Billy Williams, who resigned Feb. 28 after almost six years in the job. He was originally appointed by President Barack Obama in 2015 and stayed on under President Donald Trump. Appointees normally resign upon a change in administrations.

Wyden and Merkley said in a joint statement:

"We're gratified that the selection committee has identified these three very qualified candidates for the White House's consideration to this important post. We're confident that Oregonians would be well-served by having any one of these three candidates as our state's U.S. attorney, and we stand ready to advance President Biden's ultimate choice through the confirmation process."

The acting U.S. attorney is Scott Erik Asphaug, who was not among the seven candidates interviewed.

The others interviewed were Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel, who is not seeking a third term in 2022; Joseph Huynh, also an assistant U.S. attorney in Portland; Vamshi Reddy, general counsel for the RISE Partnership in Portland, and a former assistant U.S. attorney in Brooklyn (Eastern District of New York), and Rachel Sowray, a special assistant U.S. attorney in Portland who is a law instructor at the University of Oregon.

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