Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category

holderericBelow is my column on the resignation of Eric Holder as United States Attorney General. For civil libertarians, Holder’s tenure as Attorney General under President Obama has been one of the most damaging periods in our history with a comprehensive attack on various constitutional rights and principles from free speech to the free press to international law. In recent polling by NBC and the Wall Street Journal, Holder was the second most unpopular government official after the positively radioactive Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

As someone who previously called for Holder’s firing after the investigation of various journalists under national security powers, I am hardly one who can offer congratulatory sentiments for such a record. However, much like President Obama, one has to wonder what could have been if Holder had chosen a more principled and less political approach to his office. Holder is resigning the same week that a federal judge ordered the release of “Fast and Furious” documents after the Justice Department was accused of a pattern of delay and obstruction. Holder was previously held in contempt by Congress for his withholding documents and conflicting accounts to an oversight committee looking into the scandal. Indeed, Holder was looking at an even more aggressive period with the possible loss of the Senate and increased GOP seats in the House.

Ironically, Holder came into office trying to distinguish himself from such disastrous predecessors as Alberto Gonzales but proved no less political or blindly loyal to his own president. Indeed, both men fought aggressively to expand the powers of the presidency and national security laws over countervailing individual rights and separation of powers principles. It will be civil liberties and not civil rights that will be the lasting, and troubling, legacy of Eric Holder. The column is below:

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225px-ruth_bader_ginsburg_scotus_photo_portraitI have been previously critical of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s public speeches and interviews (as well as those of some of her colleague’s like Justice Scalia). Ginsburg has again crossed the line of judicial decorum in my view with yet another interview. In this case, she openly discusses the danger of Republican influence on any replacement in the context of her decision to stay on the Court. The interview with Elle magazine is another public appearance that continues the corrosive influence of politics on the Court and the maintenance of political contingencies by some of the justices.

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220px-B-2_spirit_bombingPresident_Barack_ObamaI just completed a two-city debate with former Bush official John Yoo on executive power with a focus on undeclared wars. It appears Yoo won the debate . . . at least with President Obama. Indeed, Yoo appears to have had Obama at “hello” to quote Jerry Maguire. Without any declaration of war, Obama has launched attacks against targets in Syria — an act of war by any measure and a violation of international law.

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220px-Bret_Stephens180px-john-yooToday I had my second debate with Berkeley Law Professor and former Bush official John Yoo. The first debate sponsored by Christopher Newport University was held in Newport News four days ago and the second was sponsored by Hillsdale College at a debate held in Washington, D.C. There is a clear theme emerging to get Americans to embrace war as a continuing reality for American policy. Equally notable is how well-connected Republicans are returning over and over to another theme: Rand Paul must be stopped. In his luncheon speech, Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal repeatedly mocked Rand Paul and his opposition to the United States engaging in wars around the globe. It seems that there is a real fear that Paul could gain traction with Republicans in steering the U.S. from an interventionist course. There are many positions of Paul that people of good faith can disagree with. I certainly have such differences with him. However, it is specifically his notion of limited presidential authority and a disinclination toward new wars that is the focus of these attacks.

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fuller-mugshotWe previously discussed the arrest of U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller in Alabama for misdemeanor battery of his wife. Now members are raising the possibility of impeachment if he does not resign despite the absence of a conviction on the misdemeanor. Rep. Martha Roby (R., Alabama) is citing a rather novel source of extraconstitutional precedent: the NFL Ray Rice case.

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250px-Michael_Hayden,_CIA_official_portrait225px-Lindsey_Graham,_official_Senate_photo_portrait,_2006This was beginning to sound too familiar. A president is calling for a new war based on his inherent authority while members of Congress warn that it is war or death for America. However, former NSA director (and my neighbor) Michael Hayden added a new element: explaining that air power is like “casual sex” and that we need greater commitment than the military equivalent to a one night stand. Of course, this one night stand is expected to last months and cost billions. President Obama has already asked for $500 million to just arm Syrian rebels despite the fact that we are now facing our own weaponry in the hands of ISIS (captured from our past supply of rebels and the Iraqi military). Sort of like Warren Zevon’s song to send “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” except we are leaving the lawyers behind on this one.

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210px-flag_of_washington_dcsvgThis afternoon, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will hold its hearing on whether to accept a new state into the Union: New Columbia. While I was asked if I could testify on S. 132, I will be traveling today to Newport News to Christopher Newport University for a long-planned debate with John Yoo on presidential powers. I have written a long academic publication on the status of the District of Columbia and testified at the prior hearings on allowing for voting representation of District residents. See Jonathan Turley, Too Clever By Half: The Partial Representation of the District of Columbia in the House of Representatives, 76 George Washington University Law Review 305-374 (2008). Since I will not be able to appear, I thought that I would re-run my earlier column on the proposal. Before Congress embraces the path to statehood, it should give the original concerns of the Framers (and some new ones) full consideration. I have long argued that a constitutional amendment is the best way to give residents a vote in Congress. Statehood raises a myriad of difficult issues but regardless of the reform (whether statehood or an amendment simply allowing for a representative in the House of Representatives), this should be a decision that is submitted directly to the American people as a whole. I am troubled (as I was in 2007) by the effort to push this through Congress to avoid such a vote (as well as the cloud of partisan politics that continue to swell around the issue).

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