Jeff Merkley opposes Rahm Emanuel nomination for Japan ambassador

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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the nomination Wednesday of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for U.S. ambassador to Japan over the objections of two Democrats, one of whom cited Mr. Emanuel’s handling of a high-profile police shooting.

The evenly split committee approved Mr. Emanuel’s nomination on a voice vote, despite opposition from Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts. Among the Republicans supporting the nomination was Sen. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, former U.S. ambassador to Japan.

The nomination now advances to the full Senate.

Mr. Merkley cited Mr. Emanuel’s handling of the 2014 killing of 17-year-old Black Chicago resident, Laquan McDonald, by a White police officer during his tenure as mayor.

“I have carefully considered Mayor Emanuel’s record — and the input of civil rights leaders, criminal justice experts, and local elected officials who have reached out to the Senate to weigh in — and I have reached the decision that I cannot support his nomination to serve as a U.S. ambassador,” Mr. Merkely, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday.

Mr. Emanuel has been criticized for delaying the release of police footage in the McDonald case until ordered by a judge more than a year after the shooting.

The video, which showed McDonald moving away from Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke at the time of the altercation, refuted Van Dyke’s claims that he was acting in self-defense.

Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery and sentenced to just under seven years in prison in 2018. But many argued that the delayed release of the footage helped Van Dyke evade justice.

“Black Lives Matter,” Mr. Merkley said. “Here in the halls of Congress, it is important that we not just speak and believe these words, but put them into action in the decisions we make.”

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