Dawn E. Johnsen withdraws bid for confirmation to Justice Dept. post

By Associated Press
Saturday, April 10, 2010

President Obama's nominee to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel has withdrawn her bid for confirmation after languishing for more than a year without a Senate vote.

In announcing her decision Friday, Dawn E. Johnsen cited "lengthy delays and political opposition."

Obama tapped Johnsen in March 2009 to head the Justice division, an office made famous during George W. Bush's administration as the place where controversial memos on executive power, waterboarding of terrorism suspects and warrantless eavesdropping won support.

But several Republicans objected to Johnsen over her criticism of the Bush administration's interrogation policies. And moderate lawmakers expressed concern over her legal work for an abortion rights group and her positions on certain national security issues.

The full Senate never voted on her nomination.

Johnsen, who led the office in an interim capacity during the Clinton administration, has been outspoken about what she called overly expansive views of executive power that the Justice Department has adopted in recent years. In congressional testimony in 2008, Johnsen said legal interpretations were "tainted by the administration's desired policy ends and overriding objective of expanding presidential power."

White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said Friday that Obama "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."

In a statement, Johnsen said: "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."

Johnsen's nomination had been stalled so long that she resumed teaching courses at Indiana University, commuting between Bloomington and the Washington area.

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