March 8th, 2010, Fairfax, VA—Americans for Limited Government (ALG) President Bill Wilson today applauded Congressman Steve King (R-IA) for “holding the Department of Justice accountable to fulfill ALG’s outstanding Freedom of Information Act request on Obama DOJ nominee Dawn Johnsen.”
“ALG thanks Congressman King for acting on this urgent matter. The U.S. Senate, and the American people, have a right to know whether Johnsen circumvented the constitutional process of ‘advice and consent,’” Wilson said.
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 Johnsen has been performing duties pursuant to that office without being confirmed by the Senate, including making hiring decisions.
The ALG FOIA request, filed on October 26th, 2009, has gone unheeded in spite of a 20-day statutory requirement.
According Congressman King’s letter, “In order to confirm or dismiss allegations regarding Ms. Johnsen’s violation of pre-confirmation etiquette and potential disregard for the Constitution’s clearly defined Senate confirmation process, I respectfully request that you provide my office with copies of all records of communications between any Office of Legal Counsel officials and Dawn Johnsen regarding personnel decisions that involve hiring, firing, promotion, discipline or any other personnel actions for career and non-career Office of Legal Counsel officials.
“These are the same materials that have been requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by Nathan Paul Mehrens, Counsel for Americans for Limited Government.
“Under the FOIA, all federal agencies are required to receive any response to the request that was filed on October 26, 2009. The processing time for this request has far exceeded the period allowed under the FOIA. I am, therefore, making my own request to you for this information and also enclosing a copy of Mr. Mehrens’ original request. I look forward to your response and to both requests being fulfilled in a timely manner.”
King recently outlined some of his further objections to the nominee in an exclusive interview with the Washington News Observer.
The story was broken by the National Review Online, where according to the report, 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.”
Since the request was filed, over 90 business days has elapsed. Now, Mehrens has sent a follow-up letter to the DOJ, and Wilson urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to postpone consideration of Johnsen.
Despite the unfulfilled FOIA request, however, the committee voted to approve Johnsen 12 to 7 on March 4th, as reported by FOX News.
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.”
“Clearly, Harry Reid wants to railroad this nomination through without any confirmation of these very serious allegations,” Wilson said, concluding, “It’s up to individual members of the Senate to keep their holds on Johnsen and to at least demand a recorded vote so that Senate members may be held accountable for their support.”
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.
Letter from Congressman Steve King to DOJ Office of Legal Counsel, March 1st, 2010.
ALG Backgrounder on Dawn Johnson, December 10th, 2009.