Posts Tagged ‘Dawn Johnsen’
Friday, June 18th, 2010

Dawn Johnsen on Thursday night defended her progressive views that ultimately led to her withdrawal as Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel nominee, telling young lawyers at a legal convention not to be afraid to take tough public stances.

Dawn Johnsen (American Constitution Society)

Johnsen, who withdrew in April, spoke at the annual American Constitution Society National Convention in D.C. and said it was “wrong” that her nomination was tied up in the Senate for months. Johnsen was the target of intense criticism from Republicans because of her opposition to the George W. Bush administration’s national security policies and her pro-abortion rights stance.

“As to whether I would have changed any of my positions or softened my stances or decided to sit out a few issues, my message could not be more clear or more simple: I have no regrets,” Johnsen said in her first public appearance in a year and a half.

The former nominee took aim at a New York Times editorial that said her withdrawal sent a “chilling message” to people considering public service: “don’t stand on principle and certainly don’t speak out in public.” She said that wasn’t the lesson to learn from her “nomination saga.”

Johnsen, a law professor at Indiana University, said young lawyers shouldn’t be scared to speak out publicly about their views, adding it is “the patriotic thing to do.”

“In the current climate, even if you attempt a crass political calculus about how to live your life, you may as well say what you think because they could always find a footnote to twist into a story from a 20-year-old brief,” Johnsen said referring to the footnote she wrote in a 1989 pro-abortion rights brief in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services.

She wrote in the footnote that “forced pregnancy” was “involuntary servitude.” Republicans claimed she was referring to motherhood as “involuntary servitude” in what she called Thursday a “damn good brief.”

The former OLC nominee was treated to two standing ovations and numerous rounds of applause during her 14-minute address to members of the American Constitution Society, a liberal legal society where she has reclaimed a seat on the board.

“It’s a phenomenal organization and I’m glad I’m in a position to be able to [join the board] again,” Johnsen told the crowd, prompting one member to shout out: “We’re not!”

“Maybe [it's] not my first choice,” she conceded.

UPDATED:

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Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) told reporters Thursday that he still hopes to confirm someone to lead the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. His comments came after Dawn Johnsen withdrew her nomination to the post last week after it had been stalled in the Senate for more than a year.

Patrick Leahy (Getty Images)

Leahy said he was surprised by Johnsen’s withdrawal, which came after more than a year of criticism from Republicans because of her pro-abortion rights stance and her opposition to Bush administration national security policies.

He said the Senate should have held a floor vote on her nomination. And he said the Senate should confirm President Barack Obama’s next nominee for the elite office that assesses the constitutionality and legality of government actions.

“We darn well better [confirm someone] because it is one of the most important positions in government,” Leahy said.

The Office of Legal Counsel has not had a Senate-confirmed head since Jack Goldsmith left it in 2004. He was replaced with an acting head until President George W. Bush nominated Steven G. Bradbury to the post in June 2005. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved his nomination, but the full Senate never brought up his nomination for a floor vote. Bradbury continued to serve as acting head until the end of the Bush administration. David J. Barron is currently the acting head of the office.

Johnsen was initially nominated to head the office on Feb. 11, 2009. The Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed her on an 11-7 vote on March, 19, 2009, with then-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania voting “pass.” Her nomination languished in the Senate for more than nine months before it was returned to the White House in December. Obama re-nominated her in January of 2010 and the Judiciary panel once again sent the nomination to the Senate floor by a 12-7 party-line tally on March 4. There were no overt moves to bring the nomination to a vote.

“People have to put their lives on hold during this nomination process,” Leahy said. “And when the nomination process takes forever, at some point they will say it’s not worth it.”

The OLC came under fire during the Bush administration for authorizing the use of harsh interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects.

A DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility report released in February cleared former OLC officials John Yoo and Jay Bybee of any misconduct in authoring the memos on the techniques. DOJ veteran David Margolis said in the report that they only showed “poor judgment.”

“I would like to bring somebody in there who can restore the credibility of [OLC],” Leahy said.

Friday, April 9th, 2010

President Barack Obama’s Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel nominee Dawn Johnsen withdrew her nomination Friday.

Here is the full statement from Marge Baker, executive vice president at People For the American Way, a liberal advocacy group.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Drew Courtney or Josh Glasstetter

April 9, 2010                                                                

Dawn Johnsen Nomination Withdrawn

Dawn Johnsen, President Obama’s pick to lead the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) withdrew her nomination for the position today.  Professor Johnsen was nominated more than a year ago and was twice approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but never received a vote by the full Senate.

Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way, issued the following statement.

“This is deeply disappointing and a clear defeat for the rule of law.  Dawn Johnsen is eminently qualified to lead the Office of Legal Counsel, and would have served the nation well.

“Professor Johnsen received support from across the ideological spectrum, including endorsements from officials representing every Presidential administration since Gerald Ford’s.  She had the bipartisan support from her home state senators, and even served as acting head of the OLC under President Clinton, but Republicans were able to block her nomination simply by declaring it to be controversial.

“Dawn Johnsen’s only offenses were to stand up against illegal torture under the Bush administration and to defend a woman’s right to choose.  Her criticisms of the Bush-era OLC have been echoed by legal scholars of both parties and by the Justice Department’s own internal investigations.  And a belief in the Constitutional right to reproductive freedom isn’t just mainstream: it’s the law of the land.

“There was never any serious question that Professor Johnsen had the intellect, the experience and the integrity for this position.  Especially when nominees face the kind of baseless attacks that were leveled at Dawn Johnsen, it’s important for the Administration to set the record straight.  Make no mistake about it; this is the result of the unchecked, reckless obstruction of the GOP.”

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Friday, April 9th, 2010

President Barack Obama’s Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel nominee Dawn Johnsen withdrew her nomination Friday.

Here is the full statement from Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

April 9, 2010

For Immediate Release

Contact: Stephen Miller or Stephen Boyd

Sessions Responds to the Withdrawal of Controversial DOJ Nominee Dawn Johnsen

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, made the following comments today after it was announced that the nomination of Dawn Johnson, President Obama’s controversial pick to be the Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, would be withdrawn:

“I am pleased that the President has heeded the concerns raised by many who care deeply about the Department of Justice regarding the nomination of Dawn Johnsen.  Ms. Johnsen’s record of partisanship and her long history of extreme views and troubling activism relating to issues such as abortion and national security made her an unacceptable choice to fill this crucial role in the Department of Justice.  It is not surprising that the Democrat-controlled Senate never made an effort to bring her nomination to a vote on the floor:.  Had they done so, the nomination certainly would have faced bipartisan opposition.  The Office of Legal Counsel has a significant legal role in the war on terror, and it is my sincere hope that the President will nominate someone who is prepared to vigorously defend the military’s legitimate actions in the fight against terrorism.”

[Note: To view a January 13 letter, sent by all seven Judiciary Committee Republicans, asking for a new hearing in light of Ms. Johnson’s troubling record on national security, please click here. To view comments from all committee Republicans, dated March 4, detailing their concerns after Dawn Johnsen was reported out of the Judiciary Committee, please click here.]

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Friday, April 9th, 2010

President Barack Obama’s Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel nominee Dawn Johnsen withdrew her nomination Friday.

Here are statements issued on Friday by Johnsen and White House spokesman Ben LaBolt.

Statement from Johnsen:

“I am deeply honored that President Obama, the Attorney General and a strong majority of the U.S. Senate have demonstrated faith and confidence in my ability to lead the Office of Legal Counsel. OLC plays a critical role in upholding the rule of law and must provide advice unvarnished by politics or partisan ambition. That was my guiding principle when I had the privilege to lead OLC in a past administration. Restoring OLC to its best nonpartisan traditions was my primary objective for my anticipated service in this administration. Unfortunately, my nomination has met with lengthy delays and political opposition that threaten that objective and prevent OLC from functioning at full strength. I hope that the withdrawal of my nomination will allow this important office to be filled promptly.”

Statement from LaBolt:

“The President accepted Professor Johnsen’s request today to withdraw her nomination. In selecting Dawn Johnsen, the President nominated a highly-respected constitutional scholar who previously served for 5 years at the Office of Legal Counsel. Her credentials are exemplary and her commitment to the rule of law has been proven time and again, but it is now clear that Senate Republicans will not allow her to be confirmed. After years of politicization of the Office during the previous administration, the President believes it is time for the Senate to move beyond politics and allow the Office of Legal Counsel to serve the role it was intended to – to provide impartial legal advice and constitutional analysis to the executive branch. He will work now to identify a replacement and call on the Senate to move swiftly to confirm that nominee in order to achieve those goals.”

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Friday, April 9th, 2010

President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel withdrew her nomination Friday.

Dawn Johnsen (Getty Images)

Dawn Johnsen has faced immense criticism from Republicans because of her pro-abortion rights stance and her opposition to Bush administration national security policies.

“Restoring OLC to its best nonpartisan traditions was my primary objective for my anticipated service in this administration,” Johnsen said in a statement. “Unfortunately, my nomination has met with lengthy delays and political opposition that threaten that objective and prevent OLC from functioning at full strength. I hope that the withdrawal of my nomination will allow this important office to be filled promptly.”

White House spokesman Ben LaBolt praised Johnsen for her credentials as a law professor at University of Indiana and her time spent in the OLC during the Clinton administration. But he said it was “clear that Senate Republicans will not allow her to be confirmed.”

“After years of politicization of the Office during the previous administration, the President believes it is time for the Senate to move beyond politics and allow the Office of Legal Counsel to serve the role it was intended to – to provide impartial legal advice and constitutional analysis to the executive branch,” LaBolt said in a statement. “He will work now to identify a replacement and call on the Senate to move swiftly to confirm that nominee in order to achieve those goals.”

Johnsen’s nomination was sent to the Senate floor by the Judiciary Committee on March 4 along a party-line vote.

It was the second time she was reported out of committee on a party-line vote. The panel first moved her out of committee by an 11-7 vote on March 19, 2009, with then-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania voting “pass.” Her nomination languished in the Senate for more than nine months before it was returned to the White House in December. Obama re-nominated her in January.

“It is not surprising that the Democrat-controlled Senate never made an effort to bring her nomination to a vote on the floor,” Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. “Had they done so, the nomination certainly would have faced bipartisan opposition.”

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), a Senate Judiciary Committee member, wrote on Twitter Friday that Johnsen’s ideology was “far out” on the left.

“Thankfully the President has finally seen wisdom of withdrawing Dawn Johnson nomination for DOJ,” Grassley wrote.

Marge Baker, executive vice president at People For the American Way, a liberal advocacy group, said Johnsen’s withdrawal was a “clear defeat for the rule of law.”

“There was never any serious question that Professor Johnsen had the intellect, the experience and the integrity for this position,” Baker said in a statement. She added: “Make no mistake about it; this is the result of the unchecked, reckless obstruction of the GOP.”

The OLC is the elite DOJ office that assesses the constitutionality and legality of government actions. The office came under fire during the Bush administration for authorizing the use of harsh interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects.

A DOJ report released in February cleared former OLC officials John Yoo and Jay Bybee of any misconduct in authoring the “torture” memos on the techniques. DOJ veteran David Margolis said in the report that they only showed “poor judgment.”

UPDATED: 10:40 p.m.

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Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Fox News Channel’s conservative pundit Sean Hannity has included Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel nominee Dawn Johnsen in his list of President BarackObama’s New Radical Friends,” found in the second chapter of his new book.

Dawn Johnsen (Indiana University)

Johnsen is the final “friend” named on the 15-person list included in Hannity’s book “Conservative Victory: Defeating Obama’s Radical Agenda,” which was released Tuesday. Hannity, like other conservatives, is unhappy with Johnsen’s pro-abortion views and her opposition to Bush administration terrorism policies.

The OLC nominee’s compatriots on the Hannity list include such Obama associates as advisers Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod. See the full list here from U.S. News and World Report’s Washington Whispers blog, which also reviewed the book.

Sean Hannity's new book "Conservative Victory" was published Tuesday by Harper Paperbacks (Harper).

“The truth about him and his inner circle is stranger than fiction,” Hannity wrote in his book. “He couldn’t be more of a Manchurian candidate if he were auditioning for a role in the movie. This stuff is just too bizarre for most Americans to process: An actual Marxist in the White House who has surrounded himself with like-minded miscreants.”

Johnsen’s nomination was sent to the Senate floor by the Judiciary Committee on March 4 along a party-line vote.

It was the second time she was reported out of committee on a party-line vote. The panel first moved her out of committee by a 11-7 vote on March 19, 2009, with then-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania voting “pass.” Her nomination languished in the Senate for more than nine months before it was returned to the White House in December. Obama re-nominated her in January.

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Saturday, March 27th, 2010

President Barack Obama will give recess appointments to 15 nominees who have been awaiting a confirmation vote in the Senate, the White House announced Saturday. But no Justice Department nominees are among them.

Emboldened perhaps by his victory on health care reform, Obama is making use of his recess appointment power for the first time in the face of what a White House blog post called an “obstruction-at-all-costs mentality” of Senate Republicans.

A total of 217 nominees have been pending before the Senate for an average of 101 days, the White House said. The 15 nominees Obama intends to appoint during the congressional recess have been pending for an average of 214 days, the White House said.

Among the recess appointments will be Jeffrey Goldstein, nominee for Under Secretary for Domestic Finance at the Treasury Department.

But Dawn Johnsen isn’t on the list. The Indiana University law professor’s nomination to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has been awaiting a vote in the Senate for more than a year. Republicans have objected to Johnsen’s prior work for an abortion rights group and her opposition to Bush-era national security legal policies.

President Barack Obama will give recess appointments to 15 of his nominees, but none for the Justice Department (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza).

In addition, Tax Division nominee Mary Smith and Office of Legal Policy nominee Chris Schroeder were not given recess appointments. Smith took a position in the Civil Division as she awaits confirmation. Schroeder’s nomination first went to the Senate in June 2009.

“The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove of my nominees.  But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis,” Obama said in a statement.

“Most of the men and women whose appointments I am announcing today were approved by Senate committees months ago, yet still await a vote of the Senate. I simply cannot allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of government,” Obama said.

A recess appointment lasts until the end of the next congressional session. Recess appointments are done infrequently, because they usurp the Senate’s constitutional role, angering many senators. During his tenure President George W. Bush made a number of recess appointments, spawning objections from Democrats.

Obama threatened in February to make recess appointments but relented after Senate Republicans lifted holds on some nominees, allowing 27 new administration officials to be confirmed.

Other nominees who are slated to receive recess appointments include David Lopez, Obama’s nominee for general counsel of the Equal Opportunity Commission, who previously worked in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department; and Eric L. Hirschhorn, a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Winston & Strawn LLP, who will be appointed to head the Bureau of Industry and Security at the Department of Commerce.

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel nominee Dawn Johnsen played a role in the hiring of political appointees to the office, according to Attorney General Eric Holder’s written responses to questions posed by senators. The questions were sent by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee after a Nov. 18, 2009,  oversight hearing with Holder and his responses were released Monday.

Dawn Johnsen (Indiana University)

In a question about Johnsen, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the panel’s ranking Republican, said he thought Johnsen’s involvement in personnel decisions was “inappropriate” because she has not been confirmed by the Senate. Holder disagreed.

“Professor Johnsen’s participation in this process has been appropriate and consistent with the past practice of presidential nominees of both parties,” Holder wrote in response to Sessions. (Holder’s comments on Johnsen can be found on page 35 of the 120-page document.)

Johnsen, an Indiana University law professor, was engaged in the review of political appointees who would be her deputies if she were confirmed, Holder said. But she was not closely involved in the hiring of career attorneys, only occasionally forwarding resumes to the appropriate DOJ officials and sometimes including comments on those applicants, he said. The OLC nominee did not take part in the interviews of candidates for career positions, nor was she involved in the final hiring decisions on those applicants, according to Holder.

Holder said either he or the acting Attorney General ultimately made the OLC political appointments. OLC acting Assistant Attorney General David Barron made the final decisions on career hires in the office.

Johnsen’s involvement in the selection of her deputies seems to indicate that DOJ officials were confident at the time that Johnsen would eventually be confirmed.

Richard Manning, a spokesman for the right-leaning think-tank Americans for Limited Government, told Main Justice that the decision to allow Johnsen to play a role in personnel decisions raises a “strong constitutional concern.” By allowing an un-appointed nominee to have a role in DOJ decisions, Manning said the Obama administration might not be adhering to the advise and consent role of the Senate.

In October, Americans for Limited Government filed a Freedom of Information Act request for information on Johnsen’s involvement in OLC personnel decisions. The DOJ has yet to furnish the think tank with the documents it requested, despite a plea from Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who opposes Johnsen because of her abortion rights views.

Johnsen was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 4 along a party line vote.  It was the second time she was reported out of committee along a party-line vote.

The panel first moved her out of committee on a 11-7 vote on March 19, 2009, with then-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania voting “pass.” Her nomination languished in the Senate for more than nine months before it was returned to the White House in December. President Barack Obama re-nominated her in January.

Republicans have sharply criticized her opposition to the President George W. Bush’s national security policies and her past work for an abortion rights group.

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Thursday, March 4th, 2010

The Senate Judiciary Committee today endorsed Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel nominee Dawn Johnsen along a party-line vote after a tense debate over her views.

Dawn Johnsen (Indiana University)

The panel voted to report Johnsen out of committee by a 12-7 vote. “I have to admit that [my] decision was not even a close call,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said today at the panel’s business meeting before he voted against her.

Republicans sharply criticized her vocal opposition to the President George W. Bush’s national security policies and her past work for an abortion rights group.

“Her advocacy and policy work with liberal organizations suggests that she is an aggressive partisan who will work to invoke her political views through the Office of Legal Counsel,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). “I’m concerned such extreme advocacy will undermine the objectivity that this important office ought to have.”

Democrats touted her qualifications, noting her service in the OLC during the Clinton administration and her current job as a law professor at Indiana University. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Johnsen’s opinions should not disqualify her from leading the OLC and she would be able to be effective in the office.

“To [Johnsen's liberal leanings] I say, ’so what?’” Feinstein said. “It doesn’t mean that she cannot make the change.”

This is the second time she was reported out of committee along a party-line vote. The committee first moved her out of committee on a 11-7 vote on March 19, 2009, with then-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania voting “pass.” Her nomination then languished in the Senate for more than nine months before it was returned to the White House. President Obama re-nominated her last January.

Johnsen had sat on the panel’s agenda since Jan. 28. She was held over the first time at the request of panel Republicans. The committee was then forced to hold her over twice more because the panel lost its quorum and its ability to conduct business. Last week, the panel held her over again because of Obama’s health care summit, which several committee members attended, was scheduled for the same time as the panel’s meeting.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) blamed Republicans for the delays on Johnsen’s confirmation. But Republicans have insisted that the Democrats could have brought her nomination up for a vote last year.

“It has been more than a year since President Obama first nominated Dawn Johnsen to lead the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel,” Leahy said. “Yet that critical office charged with providing legal advice to the president and the executive branch still remains without its Senate-confirmed leader.”