Posts Tagged ‘Steven Bradbury’
Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

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

Former Office of Legal Counsel nominee Dawn Johnsen is on course for re-nomination, an administration official told Main Justice today.

Johnsen has been in a state of limbo since the Senate returned her nomination to the White House on Christmas Eve, after she spent months waiting for a vote on the Senate floor. The White House sent her nomination to the Senate on Feb. 11, 2009 and the Senate Judiciary Committee approved her nomination on a party line vote on March 19, 2009.

Several Senate Republicans, joined by Democratic Sens. Arlen Specter (Pa.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.), have voiced concerns about Johnsen’s vocal opposition to the Bush administration’s national security policies and her past work for an abortion rights group.

President Barack Obama must tap Johnsen again if he wants the Senate to confirm her. The White House has remained mum on whether she will be re-nominated.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters today during a briefing that he has “not gotten an answer” on Johnsen and is looking into it. The administration official told Main Justice that Johnsen matter hasn’t come to the president’s desk yet.

Gibbs said the White House is unhappy with the pace of confirmation for some of the nominees.

“We’ve put a number of people into government in the first year,” Gibbs said in response to a question by the Huffington Post. “But at the same time, we have seen a pacing in dealing with nominations both for the executive branch and for judicial nominations that I think by almost any estimation would be deemed slow.”

William Treanor, who worked with Johnsen in the Office of Legal Counsel during the Bill Clinton administration, said Johnsen remains “enthusiastic” about her prospects for confirmation. We previously reported that she will continue to teach law at Indiana University during the spring 2010 semester. Johnsen declined to comment to Main Justice.

Johnsen has support from liberal advocacy groups, including the National Organization for Women, Alliance for Justice and People for the American Way.

People for the American Way recently wrote about the returned OLC nominee on its blog and has endorsed two letters in support of Johnsen.

Marge Baker, an executive vice president at People for the American Way, said her organization do “whatever needs to be done” to get Johnsen confirmed.

“We’ll continue working all of the angles,” Baker told Main Justice.

OLC has not had a Senate-confirmed head since George W. Bush appointee, Jack Goldsmith, resigned in June 2004.

Bush nominated Steven Bradbury to the post five times, but he was returned to the White House each time. Bradbury served as acting OLC chief from June 2005 to April 2007, and continued to lead the office as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General until the start of the Obama administration.

David Barron has been the acting head of OLC since January 20. In 2004, Johnsen, Barron, Treanor and other former OLC officials signed the “Principles To Guide the Office of Legal Counsel,” which offered suggestions on how the office could move forward after it was revealed that the office authorized harsh interrogation methods used against terrorism suspects during the Bush administration.

Joe Palazzolo contributed to this report.

Monday, July 27th, 2009

John Yoo: soft-spoken but never shy. That’s the gist of this piece in the WaPo today.

John Yoo (Berkeley)

John Yoo (Berkeley)

The tenured Berkeley law professor and former Justice Department lawyer, who authored memos sanctioning the waterboarding of terrorism suspects and wiretapping of American citizens, hasn’t wilted in the face of protests, withering criticism of his judgment and a pending ethics investigation. And as we reported here, he parted ways with the Justice Department earlier this month, after a federal judge refused to toss out a former detainee’s lawsuit accusing Yoo of violating his constitutional rights.

Still, there’s no cramping Yoo’s style.

From the WaPo:

While former colleagues have avoided attention in the face of such scrutiny, Yoo has been traveling across the country to give speeches and counter critics who dispute his bold view of the president’s authority. Now a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, he engages in polite but firm exchanges with legal scholars over conclusions in their academic work. This month, he wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal defending his actions and labeling critics’ arguments as “absurd” and “foolhardy” responses to “the media-stoked politics of recrimination.”

Yoo’s expansive view of executive power, memorialized in his scholarship and in the Office of Legal Counsel memos for which he is now infamous, took hold even before his stints as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, according to the newspaper.

The Bush administration, seeking to adopt a more centralized approach to power, embraced Yoo — so much so, the White House dealt with him directly on several issues, to the chagrin of his superiors. The back-door communications eventually cost him his shot at running the OLC, and he left for Berkeley.

Despite protesters who have picketed the Berkeley campus and petitioned school leaders for his ouster, he appears unfazed. And why not? What can anyone do to John Yoo? Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has said he will not seek to prosecute the lawyers who authored the memos, and even if the Justice Department’s internal watchdog finds that Yoo fell short of professional standards, the five-year statute of limitations for allegations of attorney misconduct in Pennsylvania, where Yoo is licensed to practice law, has expired.

The criticism has strained his relationships with some former colleagues, according to the WaPo, but he and his wife, Elsa, the daughter of former CNN newsman Peter Arnett, still hang out with friends on the West Coast. And he writes a regular column for his hometown newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, called “Closing Arguments.”

And he has supporters among his peers at Berkeley:

Jesse Choper, a Berkeley colleague of Yoo’s, said he thinks “very highly” of his scholarship, even if they disagree on some issues. “This is not a person who goes around raging or screaming at people — quite the opposite,” Choper said.

The WaPo points out that Yoo’s face-forward style contrasts his former Justice Department colleagues also under investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility. Jay Bybee, who led the office while Yoo was there and is now a federal appeals judge in California, has told students and colleagues that he has some regrets about the memos. Steven Bradbury, the last to run the office during the Bush administration, has made himself scarce. He joined Dechert as a partner last week. Read about it here.

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Former Office of Legal Counsel head and “torture” memo author Steven Bradbury became the latest Bush DOJ official to become a partner at the D.C. office of Dechert. Read the law firm’s news release from last week here.

Steven Bradbury (DOJ)

Steven Bradbury (DOJ)

The ex-OLC chief will join former Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel Deputy Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel and former DOJ Antitrust Division Chief of Staff Hill Wellford at the firm. Read our previous post on Engel and Wellford here.

Bradbury — who is under investigation by Office of Professional Responsibility for his role in authorizing brutal interrogation tactics — will focus on securities and antitrust litigation at Dechert.

“Steve is an extraordinarily talented litigator who in his 20-year career has been involved in some of the most significant litigation in his field,” said Dechert chairman Barton J. Winokur, in a statement. “He is a valuable addition to our antitrust and trial practices and we are pleased that he has chosen to join us.”

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

Newsweek’s Danny Klaidman has a nice profile of Attorney General Eric Holder this week. Here’s the news:

Four knowledgeable sources tell NEWSWEEK that he is now leaning toward appointing a prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration’s brutal interrogation practices, something the president has been reluctant to do. While no final decision has been made, an announcement could come in a matter of weeks, say these sources, who decline to be identified discussing a sensitive law-enforcement matter. Such a decision would roil the country, would likely plunge Washington into a new round of partisan warfare, and could even imperil Obama’s domestic priorities, including health care and energy reform. Holder knows all this, and he has been wrestling with the question for months. “I hope that whatever decision I make would not have a negative impact on the president’s agenda,” he says. “But that can’t be a part of my decision.”

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Last week, Obama administration officials gave arguments for why former Vice President Dick Cheney’s 2004 interview with special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald should remain secret. Fitzgerald was investigating how CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity got leaked. Ultimately, Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, was convicted of obstruction of justice in the matter. The liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) wants to know why Cheney didn’t get prosecuted, and has sued for release of the interview.

But Justice Department attorney Jeffrey Smith said disclosure would have a “chilling effect” on future administration officials’ willingness to cooperate voluntarily with investigations, and that officials might not comply with future requests out of fear ”that it’s going to get on ‘The Daily Show’.”

Read our report here.

Last night, Jon Stewart responded to the Justice Department’s newest justification for blocking transparency and protecting Cheney, and the irony was lost on no one:

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Friday, June 19th, 2009

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan was on another tear yesterday. At a hearing, he scoffed at Obama administration arguments for why former Vice President Dick Cheney’s 2004 interview with special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald should remain secret. Fitzgerald was investigating how CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity got leaked. Ultimately, Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, was convicted of obstruction of justice in the matter.. The liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) wants to know why Cheney didn’t get prosecuted, and has sued for release of the interview.

But Justice Department attorney Jeffrey Smith said disclosure would have a “chilling effect” on future administration officials’ willingness to cooperate voluntarily with investigations, and that officials might not comply with future requests out of fear ”that it’s going to get on ‘The Daily Show’ .”

“Says who?” Sullivan said.

Former Attorney Genreal Michael Mukasey — that’s who, Smith said. Problem is, the Bush administration’s formal argument against release of the interview came in a filing from former Office of Legal Counsel head Steven Bradbury, who is also under investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility for his role in authorizing torture. Not the most credible advocate.

“Bradbury’s a political appointee. I don’t know what his experience was,” Sullivan said, according to news accounts.

David Sobel, the attorney for CREW, called it “disappointing” that the Obama administration is taking the same line as the Bush administration. But hey - the Obama people must know they’ll eventually be under investigation themselves for something, god knows what. But it’s inevitable.

Read the Politico story here, the Washington Post story here, and the Associated Press story here.

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

A month ago, Attorney General Eric Holder testified before Congress that an internal Justice Department ethics report about the Bush administration torture-memo writers would be on his desk “soon.”  Today, Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Office of Professional Responsibility report would be completed in a “matter of weeks.”

Next month, will we  hear the report — already four years in the making — is due “shortly?”

The delays, Holder testified today, are administrative and not political. The OPR has been revising the report to reflect input from the former Office of Legal Counsel lawyers under investigation for potential professional misconduct, Holder said. Those lawyers are Jay Bybee, Steven Bradbury and John Yoo. The lawyers had missed a May 4 deadline for responding to a draft of the report; apparently the DOJ gave them some extra time.

Holder told the committee:

“They are pretty close to getting to the end of their process. It was lengthened by the responses that they received from the people who are the subject of the investigation. [New OPR head Mary Patrice] Brown indicates that what they wanted to do was look at those responses and there are some changes they are making to the report in light of the contentions that were contained in the responses that they examined.”

“My hope is to share as much of that report as I can with members of Congress and the Public. There are some potentially classified portions of that report that I think we want to work to declassify because it has been expressed by the head of OPR and I agree with her that you can’t get the whole context for this report unless close to the entirety of this report is declassified.”

Meanwhile, 13 human rights organizations released a letter to Holder urging public release of the report. “By releasing the OPR report you will demonstrate the administration’s continuing commitment to transparency and openness,” said the letter, signed by the ACLU and other groups. “You will also help strengthen a proper understanding of the important role played by government lawyers serving the United States.”

At today’s hearing, Holder also defended his efforts to fight terrorism and restore the credibility of the Justice Department. But Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking member on the committee, was critical.

Sessions, who noted that he voted for Holder’s confirmation, said the Attorney General bowed to political pressure when he allowed the release of OLC memos that authorized the use of harsh interrogation methods against suspected terrorists. The ranking member said Holder’s moves are weakening efforts to fight terrorism.

“I am disappointed. I am worried,” Sessions said. “I think the American people aren’t happy with the agenda we are seeing.”

The Attorney General said in his opening statement that it is the “highest priority” of the Justice Department to guard Americans from terrorism.

“I am committed to continuing to build our capacity to deter, detect and disrupt terrorist plots and to indentify terrorist cells that would seek to do us harm,” Holder said in his opening statement.

Democrats and Republicans continued to push Holder for his position on several hot button issues including the state secrets privilege and warrantless wiretapping.

The Attorney General would not give his position on the state secrets bills that are going through the House and the Senate. He said the Justice Department will release a proposal on the bills “within days.” Earlier this month, Justice Department turned down an invitation to speak before a House Judiciary subcommittee on the state secrets privilege.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) prodded Holder on the legality of the warrantless wiretaps authorized under the Patriot Act. Holder said the wiretaps performed during the Bush administration were flawed and the DOJ is reviewing its use of the Patriot Act surveillence provision, which will expire at the end of this year without congressional action.

NOTE: This post has been revised since its original publication.

Monday, June 8th, 2009

Attorney General Eric Holder will testify at a periodic Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the Justice Department on June 17 marking his first time back to the panel since his January confirmation hearing, Judiciary Chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced today.

This is not Holder’s first visit to Capitol Hill as Attorney General. He testified at House Judiciary and Appropriations committee hearings earlier this year. During those hearings, he defended President Obama’s decision to withhold the release of prisoner abuse photos and dodged questions about the prosecution of former Justice Department lawyers Steven Bradbury, Jay Bybee and John Yoo who wrote memos that authorized harsh interrogation methods against terrorism suspects.

Our report on his April 23 visit to the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science and related agencies subcommittee is here.

Our report on his May 14 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee is here.

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

Former President Jimmy Carter told CNN’s Campbell Brown last night that he would like to see the Obama administration closely examine the harsh interrogation methods authorized by the Bush administration, but did not call for immediate prosecutions of those responsible for sanctioning the techniques.

For months, several leading Democrats have been much more forthright than Carter calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Justice Department lawyers Steven Bradbury, Jay Bybee and John Yoo, who authored the memos that sanctioned the interrogation techniques.

“What I would like to see is a complete examination of what did happen, the identification of any perpetrators of crimes against our own laws or against international law,” Carter said. “And then, after all that’s done, decide whether or not there should be any prosecutions.”

The former president also said he did not agree with President Obama’s decision to block the release of photos that allegedly show prisoner abuse.

“Most of his supporters were hoping that he would be much more open in the revelation of what we’ve done in the past,” Carter said. He added: “I don’t agree with him, but I certainly don’t criticize him for making that decision.”

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales went on CNN’s “Situation Room” this afternoon to talk about the Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination, but Wolf Blitzer had other plans. He wanted to know about Gonzo’s role in authorizing the harsh interrogation methods used against suspected terrorists, and the former attorney general was quick to point fingers.

Gonzo — who was the White House legal counsel when Jay Bybee, John Yoo and Steven Bradbury wrote some of their memos — told Blitzer he wasn’t at the Justice Department when interrogation policies were first devised.

“It’s the responsibility of the Department of Justice to provide legal guidance on behalf of the executive branch,” Gonzo said on CNN, failing to mention his role in approving interrogation methods as White House counsel.