Dawn Johnsen Withdrawing Nomination After Long Battle

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Dawn Johnsen today has withdrawn her nomination to lead the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, following a more than year-long confirmation fight with Senate Republicans.

The White House said President Obama accepted Johnsen’s withdrawal request today, adding a statement lauding her accomplishments as a “highly-respected constitutional scholar.”

Johnsen, who was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last month (for a second time), made the announcement amid a news cycle when Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced he will retire. Senate Republicans challenged her because she took a strong position opposing torture practices during the Bush administration.Obama renominated Johnsen Jan. 20 after Senate Republicans forced her nomination back to the White House. He issued a series of recess appointments last month for stalled nominees but chose not to include Johnsen in the mix.

White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said Obama will try to find a replacement who can be swiftly confirmed.

Here is LaBolt’s statement:

In selecting Dawn Johnsen, the President nominated 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. After years of politicization of the Office during the previous administration, the President believes it is time for the Senate to move beyond politics and allow the Office of Legal Counsel to serve the role it was intended to – to provide impartial legal advice and constitutional analysis to the executive branch. He will work now to identify a replacement and call on the Senate to move swiftly to confirm that nominee in order to achieve those goals.

Here is Johnsen’s statement:

I am 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. OLC plays 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. I hope that the withdrawal of my nomination will allow this important office to be filled promptly.

Late Update: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) responds:

“Even in a Senate as committed to partisan pursuits as this majority has been, Dawn Johnsen’s nomination was a bridge too far. There was bipartisan opposition to this nominee and we welcome the withdrawal. But it is my sincere hope that the Senate will soon receive a consensus nominee for this important position.”

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