Trump picks Belmont prof for U.S. attorney role
Cochran was instrumental in Sixteenth Street Baptist Church case prosecution
President Trump has picked a Belmont University law professor to serve as U.S. attorney in Nashville.
If confirmed, Donald Q. Cochran would hold the position currently occupied by acting U.S. Attorney Jack Smith. Prior to joining the faculty at the Belmont College of Law, Cochran taught at the Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham and was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Alabama.
While in that position, Cochran most famously prosecuted Bobby Frank Cherry, the final defendant in the 1963 Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham. Cochran holds undergraduate and law degrees from Vanderbilt University.
“Don Cochran is certainly qualified to be U.S. attorney,” Jerry Martin, U.S. attorney in Nashville from 2010 to 2013, said Thursday. “He has the right experience, and I think he will bring level-headed approach to the job. I think the President made a wise pick. As a former U.S. attorney who understands the difficulties of the job, I will be rooting for him.”
According to a release from the White House and a since-deleted bio on the Belmont website, Cochran was an Army Ranger prior to attending law school. Cochran also clerked for a federal judge in Georgia and served as a prosecutor in the Jefferson County (Alabama) District Attorney’s Office. Cochran’s wife Sandra is president and CEO of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store.
“Mr. Cochran has long served his community and his country — as an Assistant United States Attorney, Deputy District Attorney, and Major in the United States Army,” U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said in a statement. “It is appropriate that he will serve here in the Middle District — he is a Nashville native and received both his undergraduate and law degrees from Vanderbilt University. I hope the Senate will quickly consider his nomination.”
Alberto Gonzales, who was U.S. attorney general under then-President George W. Bush and was Cochran’s boss as dean of the Belmont College of Law, said he’s confident Cochran will be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
When asked for any advice he would give to his former subordinate and legal co-author . Gonzales said, “Say as little as possible to the press, concentrate on the confirmation hearing, and he’ll be fine.”
“The U.S. attorney is the field general for the attorney general, and so the number one priority will be the law enforcement priorities of the president and the attorney general,” Gonzales added. “Within every U.S. attorney district, there are of course local problems and local priorities, and every U.S. attorney develops their own set of law enforcement priorities to work on in conjunction with the priorities of the president and the U.S. attorney general.”