Republicans Blackmailing Obama
Senate Republicans are pressuring President Obama into not releasing the controversial torture memos we’ve all been waiting for (and which the administration again refused to release last week) by threatening to block confirmation of two key Obama Justice Department nominees, Scott Horton reports in The Daily Beast today.
The appointments of Dawn Johnsen, nominated to head the same Office of Legal Counsel that produced those memos (and who’s been strongly critical of the office’s work in the past), and of Harold Hongju Koh, the illustrious Dean of Yale Law School who has been tapped for State Department legal counsel, hang in the balance. Both have already been publicly attacked by conservatives as extreme leftists for, in Johnsen’s case, criticizing the torture memos and supporting the right to an abortion, and in Koh’s, for being a strong advocate of international law. (Dahlia Lithwick at Slate recently catalogued some of the more absurd attacks in her own defense of Koh.)
Horton wrote of the current political struggle:
“Senate Republicans are now privately threatening to derail the confirmation of key Obama administration nominees for top legal positions by linking the votes to suppressing critical torture memos from the Bush era. A reliable Justice Department source advises me that Senate Republicans are planning to “go nuclear” over the nominations of Dawn Johnsen as chief of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice and Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh as State Department legal counsel if the torture documents are made public. The source says these threats are the principal reason for the Obama administration’s abrupt pullback last week from a commitment to release some of the documents. A Republican Senate source confirms the strategy. It now appears that Republicans are seeking an Obama commitment to safeguard the Bush administration’s darkest secrets in exchange for letting these nominations go forward.”