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Burr plans to block U.S. attorney nominee

Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr said Thursday that he will try to block a White House attempt to replace the federal prosecutor overseeing a probe into two-time presidential candidate John Edwards and former Gov. Mike Easley.

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Richard Burr,
RALEIGH, N.C. — Republican Sen. Richard Burr said Thursday he will hold up a White House attempt to replace the federal prosecutor overseeing a probe of two-time presidential candidate John Edwards.

Burr said in a statement that he will support the nomination of Charlotte lawyer Thomas Walker only after current U.S. Attorney George Holding completes investigations into Edwards and former Democratic Gov. Mike Easley. Burr said Walker's political contributions to Edwards and Easley "represent a conflict of interest."

"Given the importance of these investigations to the people of North Carolina, and in the interest of good governance and transparency, I believe the investigations must be directed by and have the full attention of the U.S. attorney, and the U.S. attorney himself must have the full faith of the people of North Carolina," Burr said.

"Delaying this nomination will ensure that the investigations and potential prosecutions will proceed with impartiality and, in turn, provide the public with full confidence that justice is served in an even-handed manner," he said. "At the same time, it will allow Mr. Walker to start his tenure as U.S. attorney free from any unfair specter of speculation and cynicism.”

Campaign finance records show Walker gave $750 to Edwards' presidential campaign in 2003. He donated $2,000 to Easley in 2004 and $250 in 2002.

The announcement was a shift for Burr, whose office said last week he planned to sign the so-called "blue slip" that home-state senators give to the Senate Judiciary Committee to move the nomination process along. Burr's Democratic counterpart, Sen. Kay Hagan, has also pressed the White House not to replace Holding but has not decided whether to block Walker's nomination.

Little is known about the status of the Edwards and Easley probes. Edwards, a former North Carolina senator who competed with President Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primaries and later went into seclusion after acknowledging an extramarital affair, has denied any improper use of campaign funds.

Easley has also denied wrongdoing. A federal grand jury has been hearing testimony about Easley's travel, a coastal subdivision where he owns property, and his wife's hiring at North Carolina State University.

Walker, 45, is a partner at Alston & Bird, LLP. He was an assistant U.S. attorney in the western district of North Carolina from 1994 to 2001.

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