Attorney Nomination Raises Concerns About Course of Edwards Probe

North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan is in a jam as she decides whether to hold up President Obama's nominee for U.S. attorney over concerns that the current prosecutor, a Republican, won't have time to finish his investigation into two prominent Democrats, former Sen. John Edwards and former Gov. Mike Easley.

Hagan, a Democrat, raised her concerns over the summer in a letter to Obama, saying that U.S. Attorney George Holding "should be allowed to complete the ongoing investigations of public officials" in North Carolina, referring to Edwards and Easley.

At the time, she wrote that White House aides floated the idea of appointing a new attorney who would not deal with those investigations, presumably allowing Holding to continue. But Hagan apparently has not been assured that Holding will be allowed to finish his probes now that Obama has nominated Charlotte lawyer Thomas Walker to the post.

"I will continue to impress upon the White House that George Holding should be given the time to complete his investigations into former public officials," Hagan said in a written statement after the Nov. 30 nomination, calling Walker "qualified and fair-minded."

Home-state senators are able to hold up nominations through what's called a "blue slip," the form they are asked to fill out regarding such nominees.

The other North Carolina senator, Republican Richard Burr, does not plan to block Walker, according to a spokesman.

"I do think that Senator Burr does plan to sign his blue slip and move the process forward with the nomination," David Ward said.

This would put Hagan in a tricky position. Does she stymie a Democratic president's nominee so that a Republican attorney can investigate two other Democrats? Or does she step aside and risk a possible hiccup or break in those investigations?

White House spokesman Ben LaBolt did not comment directly on the nomination, but said Obama wants to ensure Justice Department prosecutors can operate with independence.

"As the president has long made clear, he believes that the Justice Department should operate with the independence necessary to conduct investigations and prosecutions in a fair and impartial manner," he said in an e-mail to "The president, in close consultation with the Justice Department, will continue to nominate individuals who will uphold these high ideals during their service as U.S. attorneys."

Edwards, the two-time Democratic presidential candidate who last year admitted an affair with his former videographer, Rielle Hunter, has been under federal investigation at least since the spring. Investigators are looking into whether he misused campaign funds in the course of paying for Hunter's videos.

His political action committee paid Hunter $100,000 in 2006, and then a little more than $14,000 in 2007. Strangely, the same day Hunter was paid in 2007, a $14,000 sum listed for a "furniture purchase" was put into the account.

Edwards' admission of the affair and suspicion that he was the father of Hunter's baby provided for one of the most closely watched political scandals in years.

The admission came several months after he dropped out of the presidential race and endorsed Obama. He's been reclusive since confessing the infidelity on a nationally broadcast interview, though his wife Elizabeth has stayed in the public eye promoting her new book.

Edwards denied wrongdoing in the federal investigation, putting out a statement in May saying he's "confident" no funds were used improperly.

Easley has been under investigation regarding his use of private aircraft for travel while in office and other issues.