President Barack Obama has nominated Channing D. Phillips to serve as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, replacing acting Attorney General Vincent Cohen who resigned effective Oct. 18.
Phillips, 57, is a native Washingtonian and graduate of D.C.’s Wilson SHS, the University of Virginia and Howard University School of Law. In his new role, Phillips faces the decision, now long overdue, to determine whether his attorneys have garnered enough evidence to proceed with charges against former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray for alleged corruption in his 2010 mayoral campaign bid. Gray has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, and an investigation that has lasted five years has yet to result in any charges against the one-time mayor. Gray’s stellar career of community service has been severely tarnished by the allegations and in our opinion, deprived District residents of the sound leadership he can provide.
First and foremost, we are proud to see another one of the District’s native sons nominated to the helm of the federal government’s top law enforcement agency that oversees the District. And we congratulate Phillips on his many achievements that garnered him the nomination. Phillips comes from a distinguished family of community servants including his father, the late Reverend Channing Phillips Sr., former pastor of Lincoln Temple Memorial Church in Shaw. Phillips Sr. joined Marion Barry, Stokely Carmichael, Walter E. Fauntroy, Calvin Rolark and other civil rights leaders who organized the Black United Front in the 1960s to address police brutality and other economic and civil rights issues impacting Blacks in the District. He also fought for D.C. Home Rule and he was the first African American nominated for president by a major political party.
When Phillips takes office as interim U.S. attorney on Oct. 19, a Senate confirmation should follow within 120 days. During that time, we encourage him to decide the case against Gray. The government either has a case or it doesn’t, and it would be grossly unconscionable to allow Gray or District voters to remain in limbo any longer. Move forward or shut it down.