Utahn Harold G. Christensen may hold onto his job for awhile as the No. 2 man at the U.S. Justice Department, now that his boss - Richard Thornburgh - was nominated Monday by President-elect George Bush to continue as attorney general.
"I enjoy working with Dick Thornburgh, and I would like to stay on past January," he said in a recent Deseret News interview. "It depends on the attorney general, though. I don't see myself working here much beyond a year because there're other things I want to do with my life."For example, he said he wants to travel more - and would "welcome some sort of State Department post," such as becoming an ambassador for the Bush administration.
If such an appointment does not come, he is interested in working abroad as an attorney in a private law firm or with an investment banking establishment.
"I'd like to work with anyone who needs help with the U.S. legal system," he said. For example, he said a delegation from China recently visited the Justice Department seeking help on how to develop its own set of commercial law to help attract development.
"They have criminal law but not much commercial law," he said. "Here, we're used to looking up things in a book. For example, if someone borrows money from you, the law says they have to pay it back. China has no such laws, but wants to set them up to attract development."
Christensen, who officially became the deputy attorney general on Oct. 4 but had acted unconfirmed in that job since June, came to the Justice Department largely by accident.
He was nominated while former Attorney General Edwin Meese was under fire for possible ethics violations, and the White House had a tough time finding anyone who would take the No. 2 position. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, suggested Christensen.
Christensen said he expected to be confirmed quickly by the Senate because he knew of nothing in his past that would raise doubts about him, but the process took months.
Deborah Burstion-Wade, a public relations officer for the Justice Department, said Christensen "kept right on working anyway. I've never seen anyone so calm in that situation in my life."
Christensen said, "I never worry about things I can't control."
Despite the delay with confirmation, Christensen said he has found government work to be truly important and satisfying.
"For example, I deal personally with asylum requests and refugees," he said. "What I am doing now is important public service that affects the lives of people in important ways. Private practice may be exciting _ it's like a high-stakes game _ but I find government work more rewarding."
He said he found Meese ran the department efficiently, but in a "management by committee" manner. He was surprised when Meese decided to resign after he said his name had been cleared of misconduct. Christensen said Thornburgh brought a totally different style of management _ strong executive _ but is just as effective.
"It proves there's no one way to run a large department."
Christensen said he has two main goals to accomplish before he leaves the Justice Department: finish a review of ethics issues in the department for the attorney general and finish a review on how to better recruit young lawyers.