Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) urged the Senate on Wednesday to reject Rahm Emanuel’s nomination for U.S. ambassador to Japan, accusing the former Chicago mayor of helping “cover up” the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by a police officer in 2014, Axios reported.
The Black teenager was shot 16 times by police officer James Van Dyke, prompting outrage in Chicago at the time and calls for the resignation of the Democrat mayor. He never resigned and ran for re-election.
“This nomination is deeply shameful. As mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel helped cover up the murder of Laquan McDonald — a mere teenager when he was shot 16 times in the back by a Chicago Police Officer,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement.
“This alone should be flatly disqualifying for any position of public trust, let alone representing the United States as an ambassador,” she continued.
“That the Biden administration seeks to reward Emanuel with an ambassadorship is an embarrassment and betrayal of the values we seek to uphold both within our nation and around the world.”
Emanuel worked as former President Barack Obama’s first chief of staff, from 2009 to 2010, when Joe Biden was vice president.
When Emanuel was mayor of Chicago, the city initially decided to withhold footage of the murder of McDonald, prompting widespread protests and calls for his resignation in 2014. Van Dyke fatally shot McDonald after responding to a call about a teenager breaking into vehicles in a trucking yard, the AP reported. McDonald had a small knife in his possession, and Van Dyke claimed he was a threat.
Emanuel’s administration spent more than a year arguing against releasing footage of the 17-year-old’s death to the public, giving in because of a judge’s order.
But Emanuel refused to resign and ultimately ran for re-election. He fired the police superintendent and appointed a task force to review potential reforms to the department.
The Justice Department launched a federal investigation into the Chicago Police Department in 2015 and found that its officers were poorly trained and prone to excessive force.
Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to nearly seven years in prison in 2018. That year, Emanuel and Illinois’ attorney general agreed on a settlement mandating a series of reforms to the Chicago Police Department.
After Emanuel left office as mayor, the Associated Press wrote:
“There is no incident in recent Chicago history that has created such distrust of City Hall and the police department than then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s unsuccessful legal battle to keep under wraps the dashcam video showing Officer Jason Van Dyke shoot the teen 16 times.”
The White House announcement of Emanuel’s nomination as ambassador to Japan stated that the “former Mayor of the City of Chicago and White House Chief of Staff to President Obama, has had a distinguished career in public service.”
Emanuel has had no foreign policy experience.