Liz Cheney Group Defends Itself Against Criticism by Conservatives

On Sunday, the Brookings Institution released a statement signed by 22 former Republican administration officials and lawyers calling the attacks "shameful" and "destructive."

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"To suggest that the Justice Department should not employ talented lawyers who have advocated on behalf of detainees maligns the patriotism of people who have taken honorable positions on contested questions and demands a uniformity of background and view in government service from which no administration would benefit," it reads.

Among the signatories is former independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr, who led the investigation into President Bill Clinton's sex scandal, and former acting attorney general Peter Keisler in the administration of President George W. Bush.

During that Bush administration, the Justice Department hired at least two lawyers who defended terrorist suspects in private practice. Trisha Anderson represented 13 Yemeni detainees while with the firm Covington & Burling and Varda Hussain represented three Egyptian detainees while with the firm Venable.

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It does not appear that Liz Cheney or other Republicans objected to those appointments.

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"Somebody who was advocating for the release of terrorists... that kind of person is unlikely to be able to put in place the policies that are necessary to keep us safe," Cheney said on Fox News on March 4.

The Justice Department refutes that charge and says it does not permit its lawyers' previous affiliations to interfere with their government duties. In several instances, attorneys have been recused from cases involving specific detainees with whom they may have worked, according to a recent letter from Holder to Republican senators.

Eric Holder
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Republicans and Cheney's group are pressing Holder for information on the specific cases that have involved recusals and on which policy decisions the lawyers have worked.

Holder is expected to testify before a Senate oversight panel on March 23.

ABC News' Jake Tapper contributed to this report.

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