Nominated by President Obama to be Assistant Attorney General overseeing the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department, Indiana University Law School professor Dawn Johnsen withdrew her nomination today.
Johnsen was confirmed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last year on a party-line vote but a vote on her nomination was never scheduled because Republicans indicated strong opposition to her.
In a statement Johnsen said she’d been “deeply honored that President Obama, the Attorney General and a strong majority of the U.S. Senate have demonstrated faith and confidence in my ability to lead the Office of Legal Counsel.” She said the office “lays a critical role in upholding the rule of law and must provide advice unvarnished by politics or partisan ambition. That was my guiding principle when I had the privilege to lead OLC in a past administration. Restoring OLC to its best nonpartisan traditions was my primary objective for my anticipated service in this administration. Unfortunately, my nomination has met with lengthy delays and political opposition that threaten that objective and prevent OLC from functioning at full strength.”
Johnsen had been a harsh critic of Bush Justice Department OLC memos outlining what enhanced interrogation methods — many of them widely considered torture — would be legally permissible; she called the legal arguments “outlandish” and “shockingly flawed.”
The ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said that Johnsen’s “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."
White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said that President Obama accepted Johnsen’s request to withdraw her nomination, calling her “a highly-respected constitutional scholar who previously served for 5 years at the Office of Legal Counsel. Her credentials are exemplary and her commitment to the rule of law has been proven time and again, but it is now clear that Senate Republicans will not allow her to be confirmed.”