"A wise and frugal government which shall restrain men
from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government."
(Thomas Jefferson)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why did Obama ignore the War Powers Act in reporting to Congress on Libya?

What was behind Obama refusing to go to Congress under the War Powers Act?  Not sure we will ever know the facts, but it makes no sense.  The support in Congress was there for the action so it makes little to no sense why he would ignore Congress who is being asked to approve the funds.  Obama's former legal adviser is speaking out against Obama's action overriding  Department of Justice senior people including Attorney General Holder.  What was to be gained by his action?

Does Obama believe that he does not have to answer to Congress on anything and has convinced himself he can do whatever he wants?  It is obvious that the Rule of Law means nothing to this man.  Now to overrule his own Justice Department is worrisome of what he is up to in other areas.  Is he a President out of control and will do what he wants anytime he wants?

We have seen a lot of press secretaries come and go over the years but Jay Carney is the worst by far with his spin for Obama.  Most press secretaries don't sit in on meetings so they can have plausible deniability but Carney seems to be part of the inside crowd with his comments.  He actually makes Obama look worse with some of his defenses like "The point is, it's the president's decision to make" basically telling everyone Obama is in charge and will do what he wants to do so don't bother to ask.  Does Carney not understand we have three equal branches of Government.  Doesn't sound like he does with his comments.

This sounds like a Valerie Jarrett decision to us for him to ignore Congress.  We just don't see the Chief of Staff Daley going this route.  If true, it means that Jarrett won the battle with Daley for control.  We knew she had the support of the First Lady, but does she now have support of Obama over Daley?  The jury is still out but something to watch his actions in the days ahead which will give a clue.
On Libya, President Obama evaded rules on legal disputes, scholars say 
Decision to override Justice Department unit called 'disturbing' by one former legal adviser 
By Michael IsikoffNational investigative correspondent, NBC News 
updated 6/21/2011 6:09:46 AM ET2011-06-21T10:09:46
The White House bypassed the administration’s own written guidelines for resolving major legal disputes when it overruled the Justice Department’s advice that the president seek congressional approval for U.S. military operations in Libya, according to some legal scholars.
The disclosure over the weekend that President Barack Obama rejected the advice of senior Justice Department legal advisers — including Attorney General Eric Holder — has drawn sharp congressional criticism in recent days, ranging from House Speaker John Boehner to liberal Democrats such as Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York. 
It is also provoking debate among legal scholars, some of whom told NBC News that they were unaware of any recent precedent for the way the White House reached its legal conclusions about Libya. One top former legal adviser to Obama, Dawn Johnsen, called the accounts of the White House's handling of the matter "disturbing." 
"There may be a precedent for this, but I can't think of one," said Robert Chesney, a University of Texas law professor who specializes in national security law. "This is not the way the process is supposed to work." 
For decades, Chesney and other legal scholars said, legal and constitutional questions within the government have been resolved by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). Just last year, a six-page Justice Department memo described OLC's mission as providing "controlling advice" to executive branch officials on questions of law. 
The memo spelled out how the office's decisions were supposed to be reached: After receiving input from agencies throughout the government, OLC lawyers would provide "principled" legal analysis to executive branch officials, not opinions "designed merely to advance the policy preferences of the president or other officials." 
Are drone strikes 'hostilities'? 
In this case, administration officials say, the OLC — backed by Holder — concluded that sustained U.S. support for the NATO campaign against Libya, as well as some of its elements — including U.S. drone strikes — amounted to "hostilities" as defined by the Vietnam-era War Powers Act. 
As a result of that conclusion, the president would be obligated to seek congressional approval for continuing U.S. support for the NATO air campaign in Libya, it said. 
Rather than permit OLC to vet the issue, the White House adopted an unusual and far more informal procedure: It instructed lawyers for key government agencies, including the State and Defense Departments, to submit their views directly to White House Counsel Bob Bauer rather than the Justice Department office, administration officials said. 
Bauer, who left the White House on Friday to return to his law firm (where he will serve as a campaign lawyer for Obama), then passed along the views directly to the president.
Obama, who was once a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago, concluded he did not need congressional approval for continuing the Libya campaign. His rationale, administration officials have said, was that the operations in Libya did not involve "sustained fighting" or any U.S. ground troops and there was "no exchange of fire with hostile forces."
In doing so, Obama not only rejected the views of Holder and OLC's acting chief, Caroline D. Krass, he also overruled Jeh C. Johnson, the Defense Department's chief legal counsel. He sided instead with a more favorable analysis provided by Harold Koh, the State Department's chief legal adviser. 
Legal scholars acknowledge that the president is always free to ignore the advice he receives from OLC and interpret the War Powers Act as he sees fit. (And most presidents have taken the view that the law is unconstitutional.) But some who have been closely aligned with Obama said they were surprised and disappointed that the White House would bypass the one legal office that is supposed to provide neutral legal advice devoid of any political influence. 
Ex-Obama adviser calls reports 'disturbing' 
"The recent reports are disturbing," said Johnsen, an Indiana University law professor who served as a key member of Obama's Justice Department transition team and was later nominated (but not confirmed) to head OLC. 
Johnsen emphasized in an email that "we don't have all the details yet," but added: "It is critical that the traditional central role of the Justice Department and its Office of Legal Counsel be respected, which includes OLC — not the White House counsel's office — formulating legal advice based on input from all affected agencies." 
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Monday vigorously defended the president's handling of the War Powers Act issues, telling reporters "there was an informal discussion" of the different legal views within the administration. 
Read more reporting by Michael Isikoff in 'The Isikoff Files' 
"The point is, it's the president's decision to make," Carney said. "Views were solicited and were shared. The president heard, was aware, of all the arguments here. This is obviously a matter where there's been disagreement since the moment it (the War Powers Act) was passed."
In a follow up email exchange, White House press spokesman Eric Schultz declined to address questions about the why the president chose to bypass the traditional legal vetting process of OLC.   
Excerpt:  Read More at MSNBC

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