Utah's two Republican senators are recommending Dee Benson, now an associate attorney general, to
become U.S. attorney for Utah. Brent Ward, who held that post, resigned Monday.Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told reporters outside a Senate hearing room that he planned to speak with the other Republican members of Congress Tuesday. But, he said, he and Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, had agreed to recommend Benson.
"I spoke to Attorney General Dick Thornburgh this morning and told him we are recommending Dee," Hatch said. Thornburgh, he said, was reluctant to see Benson leave Washington and, Hatch added, had planned to offer Benson an assistant attorney general's job in the Bush administration.
Benson would prefer to go back to Salt Lake City, Hatch said. "He likes trial work and he wouldn't get much courtroom work here."
Benson himself told the Deseret News that he has no official comment.
"Because it is a presidential appointment, I just want to give an official no comment right now," he said.
Benson has trial experience, Hatch said, though little of it is in criminal work. He will have assistants with solid criminal trial experience, and as U.S. attorney will be responsible for the full range of civil and criminal work in the state.
Hatch said he will recommend that Benson be given an interim appointment while required FBI checks and Senate confirmation are completed, a process that could take six weeks.
Benson is now the top aide to Deputy Attorney General Hal Christensen, the Salt Laker who is the No. 2 man in the Justice Department. Benson is also a former administrative assistant to Hatch.
President Bush will make the nomination, but presidents normally depend on senators from the various states, particularly of their own party, to recommend a U.S. attorney.
Benson said in a recent interview that he had talked with Hatch about job possibilities that may be available when and if Christensen leaves his job - which is expected to happen within a few months. Hatch said on Tuesday that he expects Christensen will leave the Justice Department within a short time, despite Thornburgh's desire to see him stay.
Benson is the identical twin brother of Deseret News Sports Editor Lee Benson.
Dee Benson has had a long, close relationship with Hatch and was his chief of staff from 1986 to 1987. Benson also worked for Christensen's Salt Lake law firm: Snow, Christensen and Martineau. Benson left Hatch's staff to work for Christensen in the Justice Department last summer.