Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced subcommittee leadership assignments on Friday. Smith took the gavel this month when Republicans assumed control of the House.
“The House Judiciary Committee will focus on efforts to strengthen national security, protect intellectual property, prevent frivolous lawsuits and keep children safe from Internet sex predators. All of this work begins in the subcommittees. Our new chairmen will promote policies that create jobs and keep America’s neighborhoods safe from crime,” he said in a statement.
The list of assignments:
Subcommittee on the Constitution:
Chairman Trent Franks (R-Ariz.)
Vice-Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.)
Subcommittee on Courts, Commercial and Administrative Law:
Chairman Howard Coble (R-N.C.)
Vice-Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.)
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security:
Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.)
Vice-Chairman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)
Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement:
Chairman Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.)
Vice-Chairman Steve King (R-Iowa)
Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet:
Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.)
Vice-Chairman Howard Coble (R-N.C.)
Smith established the subcommittee on intellectual property and has emphasized its importance. Read more about the top priorities of this subcommittee in our report.
Congressional Republicans on Wednesday officially named Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas as the next chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has oversight of the Justice Department.
Smith, the panel’s top Republican for the past four years, will take the gavel held by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) when a new Congress convenes in January. The appointment was expected after Republicans secured a majority in the House during last month’s election.
“The House Judiciary Committee is often referred to as the guardian of the Constitution,” Smith said in a statement. “We must protect the principles of liberty, equality and justice for all Americans.”
The incoming chairman said he would focus on efforts to enforce immigration laws, reform the patent system, fight child sexual exploitation, combat lawsuit abuse and improve national security. Read his full agenda here.
The chairman can subpoena DOJ officials. Smith, who has expressed numerous concerns about the DOJ under Attorney General Eric Holder, said in September that the most important benefit of a Republican majority in the House would probably be the authority to “issue subpoenas and find out what this administration has been doing that the American people don’t know.”
The Republican has expressed concern about several matters, including the DOJ’s handling of a controversial voter intimidation case involving members of the New Black Panther Party/ the reading of Miranda warnings to terrorism suspects and Holder’s now-withdrawn decision to try self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and alleged accomplices in a New York federal court. The Barack Obama administration is now considering the use of military commissions as an option for the prosecutions of those Guantanamo Bay detainees after Republicans and Democrats raised concerns about Holder’s initial proposal.
Smith and his Republican colleagues have increased their attacks on Holder’s support for using civilian courts to prosecute some terrorism suspects after a federal jury’s acquittal last month of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Guantanamo Bay detainee, on all but one count in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa.
The House, which is still under Democratic control, on Wednesday endorsed legislation that would ban the Obama administration from prosecuting Guantanamo Bay detainees in civilian courts until Sept. 30. The provision was part of a must-pass continuing resolution to fund the government in the current fiscal year, since Congress has not passed regular appropriations bills.
Republicans returning from their week-long recess are trying to turn up the heat on the Obama administration over efforts by White House operatives to discuss the possibility of jobs with two Democratic primary candidates if they dropped out of their races.
Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the senior Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement on Friday that he wanted hearings to investigate the issue.
“I am concerned that the Obama administration has engaged in a habit of attempting to manipulate the democratic election process to benefit the Democratic Party. Such actions are certainly unethical and may very well be criminal,” Smith said.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has previously said the Justice Department should appoint a special prosecutor to look into the allegations.
The swirl of accusations involving the White House, including back-room deal-making and promises of jobs in exchange for political favors, has led some Republicans to suspect a juicy potential scandal. But as the facts are known, so far anyway, not many lawyers, not even Republican stalwarts, think anybody broke the law.
Steven G. Bradbury, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under President George W. Bush, told Politico that the president can fill advisory positions in whatever method he wishes, including to “reward political loyalty.” His remarks followed those of former Attorney General Michael Mukasey who has said that finding criminality was “really a stretch.”
Bradbury offered a fuller legal analysis. ”Under the Constitution,” he said, “ it’s the president’s prerogative to fill advisory positions in the White House and to decide who will occupy senior policy offices across the administration,” said Bradbury, who suggested that Congress should not attempt to criminalize the appointment process.
“The president may make those appointment decisions for any reason he deems appropriate,” Bradbury said, “ including to reward political loyalty, and it would raise serious constitutional issues if Congress tried to prohibit the president, or anyone acting on his behalf, from offering appointments in particular circumstances.”
“For that reason,” Bradbury continued, “any statute that purports to criminalize an offer of appointment must be construed, if at all possible, not to interfere with the president’s constitutional authority, and if the statute cannot be read to avoid that result, there’s a strong argument it would be unconstitutional as so applied.”
Justice Department officials have expressed no interest in opening an inquiry. The White House has defended its actions. In one case, according to a report issued last week by White House counsel Robert Bauer, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel asked former President Bill Clinton to raise the possibility of an unpaid presidential appointment to Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), who was challenging and defeated Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary.
This week another episode emerged. Colorado senatorial candidate Andrew Romanoff said that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina brought up three positions that he might be interested in as an alternative to running against the administration’s preferred candidate, incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet.
Peter Zeidenberg, a former Justice Department prosecutor who worked in the Public Integrity Section and now works at DLA Piper, had earlier said that the Sestak offer wasn’t a crime.
“It sounds like political horsetrading and I don’t think a prosecutor would have any interest in prosecuting such a case. It doesn’t sound to me anything like a bribe,” Zeidenberg said. “You’d be laughed out of the courtroom.”
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Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, called on the Justice Department Wednesday to appeal a federal judge’s ruling to release a Guantanamo Bay detainee who allegedly had ties to a few of the Sept. 11 hijackers.
In a classified ruling, U.S. District Court Judge James Robertson on Monday ordered the release of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who was once called the “highest value detainee” by a Defense Department official. Smith and Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.), have expressed outrage over the judge’s decision.
“It is certainly possible, if not likely, that Mr. Slahi will reengage in efforts to commit terrorist attacks against innocent Americans, if allowed to go free,” Smith wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder. “This ruling clearly puts the American people in danger and should not be allowed to stand.”
The Obama administration could appeal the ruling or continue to hold Slahi under Authorization of Use of Military Force, according to Reuters.
A DOJ spokesman told Reuters that the agency is “reviewing the decision.”
Smith also requested a briefing from the DOJ on the matter and a copy of the Judge Robertson’s classified ruling for his review. A declassified copy of the order is supposed to be released at a later date, according to Reuters.
The House Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, Lamar Smith of Texas, on Friday sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting answers from the Obama administration regarding the anticipated prosecutions of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others who allegedly conspired on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Smith released the following statement:
“Despite guarantees from Administration officials that KSM and his co-conspirators will be brought to justice, there is still a significant amount of uncertainty about how civilian trials for terrorists would work. Unfortunately, failure is an option in the federal courts. Part of being innocent until proven guilty means there is no way to guarantee a successful trial.
The Obama administration is making promises it can’t keep. If terrorists are brought to trial in the U.S., the courts will grant them additional constitutional rights, making it harder for prosecutors to obtain a conviction. Further, defense attorneys may argue successfully that statements made by Administration officials prejudiced the jury.
Terrorists should be treated as enemies of America — not common criminals. The American people deserve to have the facts before Gitmo terrorists are brought to the U.S. for trial.”
Here is Smith’s letter to Holder:
Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, applauded news Friday that aides to President Barack Obama are close to recommending that self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four of his alleged co-conspirators be tried in a military commission instead of a civilian court.
Sessions said on the Senate floor that Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to try the terrorism suspects in New York federal court is “a policy error and needs to be corrected.”
“I think [a reversal] is the right thing,” Sessions said on the Senate floor. “I appreciate the president reevaluating the position really taken by his Attorney General. And I think it was based on a number of errors in analysis of the nature of the conflict we’re in and the status of law, frankly, in America today.”
In an column published Friday by Politico, the Republican senator also blasted Holder’s justifications for prosecuting terrorism suspects in civilian courts, saying the Attorney General was trying to “defend the indefensible.”
“No matter how the administration spins it, its choice to use the criminal justice system to try terrorists like Mohammed and Abdulmutallab is a policy decision (as the attorney general has admitted), not a legal obligation,” Sessions wrote.
Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, also expressed his pleasure with the news today. He said moving the 9/11 trials from civilian court to military tribunals would be a “step in the right direction.”
“I hope that the Obama Administration has finally recognized that military commissions are better equipped to handle the sensitive national security information that is part of terror trials,” Smith said in a statement.
Attorney General Eric Holder went on the offensive on Monday, using a terrorist’s guilty plea in a New York court to buttress plans to conduct the trials of the 9/11 plotters in civilian courts rather than the military commission system. But congressional Republicans Tuesday were not ready to concede the A.G.’s point of view.
Holder said Monday the criminal justice system is “a valuable tool in our fight against terrorism,” when he announced that Najibullah Zazi had pleaded guilty to plotting to bomb New York’s subway.
However, Republicans continued their opposition to using civilian courts for terrorism suspects, including self-described 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four of his alleged co-conspirators.
“The Attorney General claims that the plea of Zazi is proof that federal courts can handle the trials of terrorists currently held at Guantánamo Bay,” Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement today. “But comparing the prosecution of Zazi — a legal permanent resident of the U.S. — to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — who engaged in an act of war against the U.S. by plotting the mass murder of Americans on 9/11 — is misleading at best.”
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) dismissed Holder’s latest remarks on the benefits of using the criminal justice system for terrorism suspects.
“I think that terrorists ought to be treated like terrorists, not like common criminals,” Boehner told reporters today, according to The Hill.
Several Republicans and conservative Democrats have signed onto legislation introduced earlier this month in both the Senate and House that would prohibit the Justice Department from using appropriated funds to prosecute KSM and his alleged accomplices in federal court.
The growing pressure from both sides of the aisle has forced Holder to back down on his desire to try the alleged 9/11 plotters in a Manhattan federal court. The Attorney General said earlier this month that the five terrorism suspects might be tried by a military commission. But the Obama administration hasn’t reached a final decision.
Key Democrats, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), continue to stand behind Holder’s handling of terrorism cases.
“[Zazi’s] guilty plea is just the latest example of justice being served by using our counterterrorism tools and the experience of our criminal justice system,” Leahy said, according to The Hill.
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Key Senate Republicans today called on Attorney General Eric Holder to testify before Congress about the decisions that the Justice Department made about a man who allegedly tried to ignite explosives in his underpants on a Dec. 25 Detroit-bound airplane flight.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and four top Republican committee members wrote in a letter to Holder that the decision to have FBI agents interrogate Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and read the Nigerian his Miranda rights was “hasty.” They added that it appears that there was “little, if any, coordination” between the DOJ and national security officials.
“It is critical that the American people have a full and timely understanding of the policy and legal rationale upon which this ill-advised decision was made,” Sens. McConnell, Jeff Sessions, (R-Ala.), Christopher “Kit” Bond (R-Mo.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) wrote. Sessions is the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee; Bond is the top Republican on the Intelligence panel; Collins is the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security panel; and McCain is the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee.
DOJ spokesman Matthew Miller defended the decision, saying in a statement last week that the DOJ consulted national security officials before Abdulmutallab was charged in federal court and not taken into military custody. It is not clear exactly when in the decision-making process the DOJ consulted the national security officials on Abdulmutallab.
FBI Director Robert Mueller testified last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the events surrounding the alleged attempted bombing were “fast-moving” and authorities had “no time” to get other investigators in place. But Mueller said decisions were made “appropriately,” including the decision to read Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights.
The letter is the latest in a series of efforts by members of Congress to address the Abdulmutallab case.
Sessions previously wrote a letter to Holder last week demanding to know who made the decision to treat Abdulmutallab as a civilian. Earlier this week, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and ranking member Collins asked Holder to remove Abdulmutallab from federal custody and treat him as a military prisoner.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation yesterday that would compel the DOJ to confer with the Director of National Intelligence and the secretary of Defense before deciding if a suspected terrorist should be tried treated as a civilian.
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The top ranking Republican of the House Judiciary Committee introduced legislation today that would compel the Justice Department to confer with the Director of National Intelligence and the secretary of Defense before deciding if a suspected terrorist should be tried treated as a civilian.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) criticized the Obama administration’s decision to allow FBI agents to interrogate Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and read the Nigerian his Miranda rights when he was captured after he allegedly tried to ignite explosives in his underpants on a Dec. 25 Detroit-bound airplane flight.
“Giving terrorists constitutional rights ignores the seriousness of the threat from al-Qaeda — these are acts of war, not isolated incidents of crime,” Smith said in a statement. “All terrorists should be interrogated by intelligence experts to obtain crucial information about future attacks. Anything less risks the safety and security of the American people.”
DOJ spokesman Matthew Miller defended the decisions, saying in a statement last week that the DOJ consulted national security officials before Abdulmutallab was charged in federal court. But it is still unclear exactly when in the decision-making process the DOJ consulted the nationaly security officials on Abdulmutallab.
Yesterday, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and the panel’s ranking Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, asked Attorney General Eric Holder to remove Abdulmutallab from federal custody to military detention.
Smith’s bill is co-sponsored by 17 Republicans: John Boehner, Ohio; John Carter, Texas; Buck McKeon, California; Peter King, New York; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida; Jim Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin; Howard Coble, North Carolina; Elton Gallegly, California; Daniel Lungren, California; Trent Franks, Arizona; Louie Gohmert, Texas; Jim Jordan, Ohio; Jason Chaffetz, Utah; Tom Rooney, Florida; Roy Blunt ,Missouri; Hal Rogers, Kentucky; and Don Manzullo, Illinois.
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Lawmakers sparred with National Football League officials and player representatives today at a hearing in the House Judiciary panel’s Courts and Competition Policy Subcommittee about the implications of a Supreme Court case that will assess how antitrust laws apply to the NFL.
The Supreme Court heard arguments last week in American Needle v. NFL, a case that poses the question of whether the NFL is a collection of 32 teams or is a single entity for the purposes of antitrust regulation.
Clothing manufacturer American Needle sued the NFL after the league signed an exclusive deal with Reebok to produce hats and other merchandise with team logos. The company argued that the NFL violated antitrust laws, and that each team needed to independently negotiate such a contract.
Players have been concerned that a broad ruling in favor of the NFL could lead teams to restrict players’ salaries and reverse gains they’ve made as free agents since the 1990s.
A dozen current and former NFL players, including Nolan Harrison, who retired after a 10-year career, and Deshea Townsend, who plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, attended the hearing today, and others were on the Hill to lobby Congress on antitrust and other issues.
“Why else would the NFL seek to review a case it won not once but twice?” NFL Players’ Union president, Kevin Mawae, asked at the hearing. The NFL won in the lower courts but joined American Needle in urging the Supreme Court to hear the case. Mawae described the NFL’s strategy as the latest attempt for the league to obtain “the whole grail” of antitrust immunity.
Democrats on the committee echoed the players’ concerns. The case “could affect the free agency concept,” said Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) who chairs the full Judiciary Committee. “The only option would be a players strike.”
The league tried to downplay any impact the case might have on the players. “This case is not about labor relations,” said Gary Gertzog, a senior VP at the NFL, in his opening statement.
The league also argued that the teams could act as a single entity because they competed with other sports and other forms of entertainment for fans.
“The consumer has the ultimate vote,” Gertzog said, arguing that a fan might switch to a different sport if an NFL cap was too expensive.
Other sports leagues backed him up. “It defies economic reality,” said William Daly, a National Hockey League deputy commissioner. ”Sports leagues can’t willy-nilly make decisions that aren’t responsive to the marketplace,” he said.
Republicans on the committee followed the league’s line of reasoning. The subcommittee’s ranking member, Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.), said that manufacturers would be harmed if they had to spend time negotiating license agreements with each team separately.
“This is a case of manufacturer’s remorse: American Needle tried to obtain through litigation what it could not get through negotiation,” Coble said, in a reverse echo of Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s comments during the arguments at the high court.
“You are seeking through this ruling what you haven’t gotten from Congress,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said to the NFL’s lawyer during oral arguments. “An absolute bar to an antitrust claim.”
Even if the Supreme Court grants the league partial immunity that shields it from players’ antitrust suits, it might not hurt the players all that much, said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member. Given that “professional sports unions are the wealthiest labor unions around; one wonders whether they need any extra leverage,” he said.
Smith suggested the committee had already given the NFL a lot of attention — three hearings in three months — and said the panel should instead hold hearings on the Justice Department’s decision to drop charges against the New Black Panther Party, and on the question of whether to close the Guantánamo Bay detention center.