Judiciary Republicans Highlight Dawn Johnsen's Alarming Record, National Security Concerns

By:  Jon Kyl Thomas Coburn Chuck Grassley Orrin Hatch Lindsey Graham John Cornyn Jeff Sessions III
Date: March 4, 2010
Location: Washington, DC

All 7 Republican senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee joined together today in opposing Dawn Johnsen's nomination to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. After she was reported out of committee on a party-line vote, they issued the following remarks highlighting her alarming record and raising serious concerns about placing her in a role with significant national security responsibilities:

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL): "I am troubled by President Obama's continued push to install Dawn Johnsen in the Justice Department. As head of the Office of Legal Counsel, Johnsen would be the senior official responsible for making legal judgments in the war on terror. But her alarming record should disqualify her from this crucial role. Her sweeping condemnations of counterterrorism policies have been factually and legally wrong--and clearly tinted through the lens of her leftist agenda. What's more, her bizarre statements on social policy demonstrate a legal view warped by a distressing ideology. Dawn Johnsen is obviously the wrong nominee for this important position, especially as we confront the serious threat of terrorist attack. With so many more qualified and mainstream Democrat lawyers to choose from, I am puzzled as to why she continues to receive the President's support."

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT): "Professor Johnsen has spent nearly 20 years using legal analysis advancing far-left causes, and often dismisses outright views with which she disagrees. She has every right to be an ideological legal activist, but not as head of the Office of Legal Counsel. Democrats said for years that the Justice Department generally, and Office of Legal Counsel specifically, must be devoid of politics and ideology and Professor Johnsen fails that test. Her record shows that politics have long influenced her legal analysis and judgment, and her extreme views on critical constitutional issues, including those related to the war on terrorism and on social issues such as abortion, make her inappropriate for this critical position."

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA): "The Office of Legal Counsel is supposed to be objective and free from partisan motive. I'm concerned that Dawn Johnsen's politics will inappropriately influence her legal analysis and severely undermine the neutrality of this important office. I'm particularly worried about how her political views on terrorism will impact our national security policies. Dawn Johnsen's record of extremism and partisanship makes her completely inappropriate to lead the Office of Legal Counsel."

Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ): "The selection of Dawn Johnsen to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel is one of the most partisan nominations the President has made. Given her troubling legal views on terrorism, her documented history of allowing political preferences to infect her legal positions, and her startling views on abortion, it should come as no surprise that her nomination once again did not receive a single Republican vote in the Judiciary Committee. Given the bipartisan opposition to her confirmation in the full Senate last year, I had hoped the President would have reconsidered who he nominated to this critical post at the Justice Department."

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC): "This nominee may be a nice person, but she holds some radical ideas--particularly on national security policy. Based on her previous statements, it is unclear whether she would be able to set aside her personal biases and provide the type of objective, yet aggressive, constitutional legal advice the President will need to effectively combat the continued terror threat. I oppose her nomination."

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX): "Dawn Johnsen has endorsed a pre-9/11, law enforcement-centered model to fighting terrorism. I could not disagree more with this approach and will continue to oppose any effort to reverse the effective counterterrorism architecture developed since 9/11. Retreating into the law enforcement paradigm carries with it deep and dangerous implications for preventing the next terror attack through the use of U.S. military and intelligence assets."

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK): "The head of the Office of Legal Policy must be independent and defend executive power, not impose a personal agenda. Ms. Johnsen's demonstrated agenda to constrain executive power would undermine the constitutional authority our Founding Fathers intended for the President. Further, Ms. Johnsen's statements demonstrate a record of extremism and blatant partisanship on sensitive issues such as abortion and voting rights. As a strong pro-life advocate, physician, and originalist, I cannot, in good conscience, support her nomination."

Note: Due to widespread concerns, Johnsen's nomination was returned to President Obama at the end of last year. Despite these concerns, Johnsen was renominated. Judiciary Republicans then asked Chairman Leahy for a new hearing, particularly in light of Johnsen's views on counterterrorism and the relevant responsibilities she would have at the OLC. A second hearing, however, was not held.

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