The Democratic chairs of the Senate Judiciary and intelligence committees told President Barack Obama today they support Attorney General Eric Holder’s handling of terrorism suspects.
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the Judiciary panel chairman, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said they disagree with the barrage of recent criticism of the Attorney General and the Obama administration over decisions on terrorism cases.
“We should not let partisan distractions lead us to cast aside such valuable tools as the experienced terrorism interrogators of the FBI or forego convicting terrorists in our Federal courts,” the senators wrote in a joint letter to the president.
For months, Republicans have condemned Holder’s decision to try self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged coconspirators in a New York City federal court, arguing a military tribunal is a better forum. Democrats last month joined the criticism after New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) raised concerns about the costs and disruptions to Lower Manhattan of a lengthy trial requiring high security.
Republicans have also been upset over the decision to treat alleged Christmas Day airplane bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as a civilian and allow the FBI to read him the Nigerian national his Miranda rights after a brief interrogation. Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin have suggested Holder resign over the issue.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced legislation earlier this month that would prohibit the Justice Department from using funds to prosecute KSM and his alleged accomplices in federal court. The bill has 27 co-sponsors, including Democratic Sens. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Jim Webb of Virginia, all of whom represent conservative-leaning states. Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who caucuses with the Democrats, also is a co-sponsor.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) introduced a companion bill in the House earlier this month. The bill has 49 co-sponsors, including Democratic Reps. Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania, Dan Boren of Oklahoma and Bobby Bright of Alabama.
“Congress should not tie the hands of our national security and law enforcement agencies, but should instead ensure they have the flexibility to use every means available,” Leahy and Feinstein said in their letter. “Congress should be working with you in a shared mission to most effectively protect our national security and to ensure that just convictions, once obtained, will be sustained and upheld.”
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A bipartisan group of senators led by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) unveiled legislation today that would prohibit the Justice Department from using funds to prosecute 9/11 “mastermind” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four of his alleged coconspirators in a federal court.
And Graham, flanked by his bill co-sponsors, told reporters on Capitol Hill that he that he isn’t playing politics over closing the Guantánamo Bay military prison. That was in response to President Obama’s complaint Monday on You Tube that “pretty rank politics” were slowing down his plan to relocate or prosecute about 200 terrorism suspects at the U.S. military base in Cuba.
Graham was flanked by seven co-sponsors of his measure, Jim Webb (D-Va.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) John McCain (R-Ariz.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).
Last year, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that KSM and his alleged accomplices would be tried in civilian court in New York, instead of a military tribunal. Now, the DOJ is “scrambling” to find other locations for the civilian trial after sharp criticism about security and cost from key politicians, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“This whole process makes no sense,” Graham said. “It’s not about ‘rank politics’.”
One after another the bill co-sponsors came up to the microphone to denounce civilian trials for terrorism suspects, including Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who allegedly tried to ignite explosives in his underpants on a Dec. 25 Detroit-bound airplane flight.
Webb said holding non-military trials for terrorism suspects could “benefit the international terrorist movement.” Lieberman, who chairs the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, called the trials “justice according to ‘Alice in Wonderland’.” Sessions, who is the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said they are “a big mistake.”
“I think the president would do himself a great favor if he would overrule and say we’re not going to try these people here [in this country],” said Hatch, who also serves on the Judiciary Committee.
Graham told reporters that he doesn’t expect his bill to have a problem passing the Senate after the recent discussions concerning KSM and Abdulmutallab. The Senate defeated a similar proposal from Graham last November, tabling it on a 54-45 vote. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) introduced a bill in the House last month that would prevent terrorism suspects from receiving civilian trials.
The fiscal 2011 Justice Department budget unveiled on Monday requests that Congress allocate $73 million for transferring, prosecuting and incarcerating Guantánamo Bay detainees.
“Yesterday, the president introduced his budget and he said that anybody who had a good idea on how to get some savings in the budget let us know,” Barrasso said. “Well we all want to let the president know that there is a lot of savings to be had by not having these trials anywhere in the United States and keeping them in a military court. I think basically the Attorney General got it wrong.”
Videos of a Fox News interview with Chambliss, comments from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) at the press conference and a Fox News interview with Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) about the House legislation are embedded below.
This post has been corrected from an earlier version.
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Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Wednesday announced his recommendations for Oregon’s U.S. Attorney. Read the news release here.
The finalists are Josh Marquis, Amanda Marshall and Kent Robinson.
Marquis has served as the district attorney for Clatsop County since 1994. He previously was the chief deputy district attorney for Deschutes and Lincoln counties. Marquis also worked as a deputy district attorney for Lincoln and Lane counties.
Marshall is a child advocacy lawyer for the Oregon Department of Justice. She has a Facebook page promoting her candidacy here.
Robinson is the district’s acting U.S. Attorney. From 2007 until earlier this year, he was the district’s First Assistant U.S. Attorney. From 2001 through 2007, he served as the chief of the criminal division in the district.
The omission of Oregon Assistant U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton from the list came as a surprise, according to Willamette Week in Portland.
The newspaper said:
Going into the weekend, many insiders speculated that Dwight Holton, an assistant U.S. Attorney was likely to be one of three finalists. The son of a former Virginia governor and the brother-in-law of current Virginia governor and Democratic National Committee boss Tim Kaine, Holton is connected, as well as being a well-regarded prosecutor.
Wyden appointed a 13-member selection committee to make recommendations for the senators to consider. The panel also considered Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote and Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson, but their names also weren’t on the final list sent to the White House. President Barack Obama ultimately will select and nominate the U.S. Attorney.
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Ten people have submitted applications for Oregon U.S. Attorney, Willamette Week in Portland, Ore., reported today.
Local lawyers told the newspaper the candidates are:
-Kent Robinson, Oregon acting U.S. Attorney.
-Dwight Holton, Oregon Assistant U.S. Attorney and brother-in-law of Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D). Democratic Virginia Sens. Jim Webb and Mark Warner previously recommended him for Eastern District of Virginia U.S. Attorney. President Obama ended up nominating Associate Deputy Attorney General Neil MacBride for the post.
-Josh Marquis, Clatsop County district attorney.
-John Foote, Clackamas County district attorney.
-Rob Bovett, Lincoln County district attorney.
-John Haroldson, Benton County district attorney.
-Amanda Marshall, Oregon Department of Justice child advocacy section lawyer. She has a Facebook page promoting her candidacy here.
-Ken Perry, Portland lawyer.
-Robert Hutchings, Lane County public defender.
-John Hummel, Portland lawyer and professor at a university in Liberia.
-Josh Kardon, chief of staff to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), told Willamette Week the U.S. Attorney selection panel will meet in September to pare down its applicant list and will interview candidates in October.
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Associate Deputy Attorney General Neil MacBride was nominated for Virginia Eastern District U.S. Attorney Thursday night, according to a White House news release.
The Washington Post reported earlier this week that MacBride was going through FBI background checks for the job.
Democratic Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb recommended that President Obama nominate either MacBride, Eastern District Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik R. Barnett, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District Robert P. Crouch or Dwight Holton, an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Oregon and the brother-in-law of Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) brother-in-law. Read our previous post on the senators’ U.S. Attorney recommendations here.
Law enforcement officials told The Post that it is vital to install a Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District as soon as possible since the office is vying for the opportunity to prosecute self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his alleged accomplices. The office is currently led by interim U.S. Attorney Dana Boente.
MacBride has served as an associate deputy attorney general since January. He was previously chief counsel to Vice President Biden and a vice president at the Business Software Alliance, where he lobbied the Senate, according to The Post.
Some governmental watchdogs have expressed concern over Obama nominating MacBride because of his past in lobbying, The Post said. They have pointed out that such an appointment would run against Obama’s attempts to reform D.C. lobbying customs, according to the newspaper.
But DOJ officials and former co-workers told The Post that MacBride’s past as a lobbyist and a prosecutor would make him a perfect candidate for U.S. Attorney.
This post was updated to reflect MacBride’s formal nomination by the White House on Thursday.
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“Daisy” is back, but now the little girl from the infamous Lyndon Johnson attack ad asks, “To close it? To close it not?”
The Republican National Committee is upping the ante on closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison with its recently-released version of the commercial. Although there isn’t a nuclear explosion in this spot, Johnson can still be heard saying, “These are the stakes!” before a clip of President Obama saying that closing Guantanamo is “easy.” The ad also includes Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) saying that detainees should not be transferred to the United States.
“The message of original Daisy spot, by the way, was that Goldwater would recklessly get us all killed. So it would logically follow that the message of this ad, of course, is that Obama will recklessly get us all killed.”
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Not everybody is annoyed by Vice President Dick Cheney’s media blitz. On Fox News Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) gave Cheney the credit for causing President Obama to reverse on some of his national security policies:
I think the administration has responded to the critique of the vice president and others that it…might be drifting off in the wrong direction on national security issues.
McConnell then took the opportunity to urge the President to reconsider closing Guantanamo Bay, an action he took during his first day of office. On the issue of bringing detainees into the United States, McConnell said:
There’s no reason in the world to bring these people to the United States. I don’t think there’s a community in America that’s going to be interested in taking them.
To our knowledge, the only Congressional representative to declare his willingness to accept former Guantanamo Bay detainees (and stick to it) is Rep. James Moran (D-Va.).
In related news, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) has reversed his position on Guantanamo Bay and its closure.
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On Sunday’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos“, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) reversed on praise he had given to President Obama for his decision to close Guantanamo Bay. Webb is no longer a supporter of the timeline the President has set for closing the detention facility, saying “We should, at the right time, close Guantanamo.” Webb also said that he would not be willing to accept any Chinese Uighurs in his state. In making the case against the transfer of detainees to the United States, he said:
We spend hundreds of millions of dollars building an appropriate facility with all security precautions in Guantanamo to try these cases.
These aren’t people who were in the United States, committing a crime in the United States. These are people who were brought to Guantanamo for international terrorism. I do not believe they should be tried in the United States.
Joan Ziglar, the commonwealth attorney for Martinsville, Va., is no longer in the running for U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, she told the Martinsville Bulletin today.
A staffer from Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-Va.) office called Ziglar this afternoon to tell her she’d been eliminated from contention for the Roanoke-based position, the Bulletin reported. Webb and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) are in charge of recommending names to the White House, and Ziglar had been on an earlier short list.
The two candidates that still remain are Thomas Bondurant, an assistant U.S. attorney in the Western District who heads the Criminal Division, and Timothy Heaphy of the law firm McGuireWoods, who previously served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Western District and District of Columbia.
In the Eastern District, Webb and Warner recommended Business Software Alliance Vice President Neil MacBride, Eastern District Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik R. Barnett, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District Robert P. Crouch and Dwight Holton, an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Oregon and the brother-in-law of Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) brother-in-law.
Click here to view our interactive chart listing changes in all 93 U.S. Attorney positions.