Broad Based Support for Dawn Johnsen

To: Interested Parties
From: Marge Baker, Executive Vice President, People For the American Way
Date: March 26, 2010
Re: Broad Based Support for Dawn Johnsen

Anyone who has listened to GOP Senators labeling Dawn Johnsen—President Obama’s choice to head the Office of Legal Counsel—as a “controversial” nominee could be excused for assuming that her support has been limited to the liberal extreme of the legal community.

But the facts tell a different story.  In truth, Johnsen has received support from across the ideological spectrum.  

In addition to the bipartisan endorsement of both her home state Senators, Evan Bayh and Richard Lugar, Johnsen has received the strong support of conservative legal scholar Doug Kmiec, who headed the OLC under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.  Writing in the National Law Journal, Kmiec said:

[Johnsen’s] history demonstrates that Johnsen can and will separate law from politics and discharge the OLC’s unique duty to assess the constitutionality and legality of executive initiative and legislative proposal. Even if the president did not also deserve the Senate’s deference on the choice of his executive team, Dawn Johnsen merits confirmation.

In addition, although Republicans have attempted to paint Johnsen as weak on terrorism, she has received strong backing from national security experts of both parties.
 

  • Alan Kreczko, who served in senior positions in the State Department and National Security Council during the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton Administrations, said of Johnsen:  “I am confident that she understands that the Constitution vests the President with broad authorities in the national security and foreign policy arena, and that she will vigorously defend those authorities.”
     
  • Another Johnsen supporter, Neal Wolin, currently Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, served in the CIA under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton and on the National Security Council.  He said Professor Johnsen would be an “excellent head of the Office of Legal Counsel,” in part because of her “strong sense of the importance of the President’s authorities and prerogatives, especially in the national security area. ”

  • Richard Shiffrin served in a variety of national security roles—former Acting General Counsel of the Defense Intelligence Agency, former Deputy General Counsel for Intelligence for the Department of Defense, and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General—and has come out strongly in support of Johnsen’s nomination. “On every occasion with which I am familiar, including national security matters, Dawn Johnsen exhibited superb professionalism.  Not only was her analysis trenchant, her logic impeccable, her research thorough, and her written exposition cogent, but she approached every matter free from ideological biases that might impede yielding the optimum resolution. ”

  • Lewis Merletti, former Director of the United States Secret Service, said of Johnsen: “I found her to be keenly responsive, dedicated and conscientious . . . .  As Director of the Secret Service . . . I have had the opportunity to work with many professionals . . .  Dawn is among the best of those professionals. ”

  • And Howard Shapiro, former General Counsel of the FBI said that “under Dawn’s leadership as Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Acting Assistant Attorney General the office [OLC] ran smoothly and efficiently and provided consistently thoughtful, measured advice in both formal memoranda and many less formal interactions.  In a department notable for the commitment and patriotism of its lawyers, Dawn nevertheless stood out as exceptional. ”

In truth, the only reason Dawn Johnsen’s nomination is “controversial” is because GOP Senators found it politically convenient to make it so.  By any rational standard, Johnsen’s qualifications for the job are impeccable, and among commentators without an ideological ax to grind, support is virtually unanimous.  Former OLC head (and former Solicitor General) Walter Dellinger declared that, when confirmed, Johnsen “will be the best head of OLC in the history of the office.”

From the wide ranging support her nomination has received, it’s clear that many people agree.

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