February 25th, 2010, Fairfax, VA—Americans for Limited Government (ALG) President Bill Wilson today in a letter urged members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to delay the confirmation of a controversial nomination to the Justice Department by Barack Obama until it can be confirmed whether the nominee circumvented the constitutional process of “advice and consent.”
The committee is set to begin mark-up on the nominee today at 10AM.
ALG filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Justice Department’s (DOJ) Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) attempting to confirm allegations that Dawn Johnsen, Barack Obama’s nominee for Assistant Attorney General to the Office of Legal Counsel, has been performing duties pursuant to that office without being confirmed by the Senate, including making hiring decisions.
“Because the Justice Dept has refused to comply with the [Freedom of Information] law and the real possibility exists that Ms. Johnson has violated the law in acting prior to confirmation, I call upon you to delay or defeat this nomination,” Wilson wrote.
According to National Review Online, Johnsen may have been “involving herself in OLC’s decisions on hiring junior lawyers. If those reports are accurate, Johnsen’s actions would seem a serious violation of the Senate’s understanding of pre-confirmation etiquette—an etiquette that is especially punctilious for nominees who have generated controversy—and would give senators additional reason to oppose her nomination.”
The ALG FOIA request, filed on October 26th, 2009, has gone unheeded in spite of a 20-day statutory requirement.
“That was over 120 days ago, and flies in the face of the Freedom of Information Act,” Wilson wrote in his letter.
According to the law, “Each agency, upon any request for records… shall… determine within 20 days (excepting Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays) after the receipt of any such request whether to comply with such request and shall immediately notify the person making such request of such determination and the reasons therefor, and of the right of such person to appeal to the head of the agency any adverse determination.”
According to a letter to the Justice Department from ALG Counsel Nathan Mehrens, the organization has made repeated attempts to contact the Freedom of Information office within the Office of Legal Counsel, and received no response until the morning of Feb. 12th.
“After numerous failed attempts to obtain a response, i.e., unreturned voicemails, etc., from your office regarding the FOIA request referenced above I finally was able to get you on the phone on Friday, February 12, 2009. As you will recall in that call you stated that the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) has not even started to work on the FOIA request. You also declined to provide an estimated date of completion for the FOIA request,” wrote Mehrens.
Wilson said in a statement the committee was “duty-bound” not to act until the Justice Department completed the FOIA request, and in his letter wrote, “The information we have requested is critical to your committee’s decision on whether or not to confirm Ms. Johnsen.”
Freedom of Information Act Request, October 26th, 2009.
Letter to Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel, February 24th, 2010.
Letter to Senate Judiciary Committee, February 25th, 2010.
ALG Backgrounder on Dawn Johnson, December 10th, 2009.