Luger previously was the state’s U.S. attorney, or local prosecutor for the federal Department of Justice, from 2014-2017. He is known for a number of high-profile cases during his tenure, like prosecuting young men from the Twin Cities for trying to join the terrorist group ISIS, and for reaching an agreement to have the killer of Jacob Wetterling, an 11-year-old murdered in 1989, confess to his actions.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas “applauds the nomination of Andy Luger,” said Steve Hunegs, JCRC’s executive director. “We know Andy is committed to the fair enforcement of federal law in Minnesota…we’re proud that we have a Jewish United States attorney for Minnesota.”
Those efforts did not always pan out — he has been criticized for piloting a federal anti-radicalization program that was seen as singling out the Somali community and an excuse for the FBI to increase surveillance of Muslims. Some Minnesota state representatives petitioned against Luger’s nomination due to this program.
But others have recalled how Luger reached a settlement with the city of St. Anthony Village to establish the Abu-Huraira Islamic Center. The city originally rejected a permit for the center, prompting Luger to file a federal civil rights lawsuit in defense of the Muslim community.
Hunegs sees an opportunity for Luger to push for law enforcement to better document and track hate crimes, a priority the Jewish, Muslim, LGBTQ, Latinx, and Asian-American communities have spent the past few years advocating for.
“He can certainly use his influence and persuasion to make sure both federal law enforcement and state law enforcement are recording those incidents that are hate crimes or bias incidents, so that we have a more accurate picture of the amount of hate crimes that are occurring,” Hunegs said. “He has that pulpit.”
As Minnesota’s U.S. attorney, Luger drew the ire of civil rights activists when he decided not to bring federal charges against Minneapolis police officers that shot and killed Jamar Clark in 2015. He also declined to charge the St. Anthony police officer who killed Philando Castile.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who with fellow Sen. Tina Smith suggested Luger’s nomination to Biden, said in a statement that “Andy Luger is a dedicated public servant and an excellent candidate for Minnesota’s U.S. Attorney.”
Luger was originally from New Jersey before settling in Minnesota.