Washington (CNN) - Veteran Washington attorney James Cole whose nomination was blocked by the Republican Senate last year was sworn in as deputy attorney general Monday, less than a week after receiving a controversial recess appointment from President Obama.
Cole was sworn in by Attorney General Eric Holder at a private event in the Attorney's General's office in the Justice Department. A few dozen guests including Cole's family and associates from Holder's staff and Cole's new office were present for the oath-taking.
Holder issued a statement commending his new deputy, saying he would "ensure the fairness and integrity of our financial markets and restore the traditional missions of the Department".
Cole was appointed after the Senate had recessed for the year, thus circumventing GOP opposition to the nomination which had lingered for months. Republicans have cited his role in representing the insurance company AIG which received a government bailout, and his statement on the 9/11 attack by Islamic extremists as an act of criminals rather than warriors.
Cole worked for the Justice Department in the 80's and early 90's prosecuting public corruption and white collar crime, before joining a Washington firm.
While in private practice, as a Special Counsel to the U.S. House ethics committee, he led the probe of then Speaker Newt Gingrich for use of tax exempt funds for political purposes. Gingrich was sanctioned by the House and forced to pay penalties.
Cole replaces Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler who had been filling the powerful number two post on an interim basis. The Deputy Attorney General oversees day-to-day operations of the Justice Department and its law enforcement agencies.
Cole will fill an important role that Grindler could not because of his "acting" status. Cole will be able to sign off on secret government requests to judges for surveillance of suspected terrorists and spies. Holder has had to sign hundreds of such requests in the past year while awaiting Cole's arrival.