Wall Street Journal, N.Y. Times Face Off Over Johnsen Nomination
By Ryan J. Reilly | February 4, 2022 11:17 am

Dawn Johnsen during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in February 2009 (Getty Images)

Ahead of today’s scheduled Senate Judiciary Committee vote on Dawn Johnsen, President Obama’s nominee to be the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, opposing editorials ran this morning in the two of the nation’s top newspapers.

The New York Times wrote that Johnsen, who has been awaiting a vote for more than a year, should be confirmed swiftly. The Wall Street Journal, however, said that “at this point it would serve the best interests of all parties to cut Ms. Johnsen loose.”

Conservative senators have raised concerns about Johnsen’s attacks on the George W. Bush administration’s national security policies and her past work for an abortion rights group.

The newspapers joined the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post in editorializing about the Johnsen nomination.

The New York Times:

More than a year into his presidency, President Obama’s nominee to lead the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel still has not been confirmed by the Senate. Dawn Johnsen, a law professor at the University of Indiana, is a highly qualified choice, but Republicans have been raising baseless objections and delaying. They owe Mr. Obama a vote on this nomination, and Democratic leaders have a duty to get it done quickly.


There is no need for another hearing. Ms. Johnsen has been fully vetted already. She appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee last February to answer questions about her nomination, and, the following month, the committee voted to support her. Since then, her nomination has languished. Now that it is a new Senate session, the Judiciary Committee must vote on her nomination again. It is likely to do so on Thursday.

Majority Leader Harry Reid should do what it takes to get the full Senate to vote promptly and to get her confirmed. A year is far too long for such an important position to go unfilled.

The Wall Street Journal:

It will be back to the future today on Capitol Hill, when President Obama’s nominee to run the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. A year into the Obama Administration, Dawn Johnsen and her views on national security look more than ever like a relic of campaign nostalgia.

Back in the day, Ms. Johnsen’s efflorescent critiques of the Bush Administration’s antiterror policies while a professor at Indiana University made her a darling of the left. In a 2008 blog about the Supreme Court’s decision in Boumediene v. Bush, Ms. Johnsen claimed that U.S. detainee policies were “creating fertile conditions for the recruitment of terrorists.” In March 2008 on Slate.com, she advised that the next Administration “must condemn our nation’s past transgressions and reject Bush’s corruption of American ideals.”


The White House has given little indication that it is interested in spending political capital on the Johnsen nomination. And at this point it would serve the best interests of all parties to cut Ms. Johnsen loose. Her views look increasingly out-of-touch, better suited to the pot-shotting needs of a party in opposition. The Obama Administration has its hands full now with a determined and mortal enemy. Appointing the right person to run the Office of Legal Counsel would send a useful message that the government’s resolve is grounded in current realities.

Andrew Ramonas contributed to this report.


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