On March 11, President Obama issued an executive order creating the White House Council on Women and Girls. The council will consist of cabinet level officials “working across executive departments”on women’s issues, and provide recommendations to the President on pending legislation and Executive Branch policy.
On the same day, President Obama issued an executive memorandum for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton determining that, under the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act, up to $8 million in aid should be provided to help meet “Refugee and Migration Needs Related to the Continuing Conflict in Pakistan.”
On Thursday, March 12, Justice Department lawyers urged the D.C. Circuit to reject a lawsuit by four Britons previously held at Guantanamo. The DOJ’s filingrelied on the recently decided Chinese Uighur case, Kiyemba v. Obama, in arguing that “aliens held at Guantanamo do not have due process rights.” The DOJ also called for a ban on such lawsuits against U.S. military officials, citing a separation-of-powers rationale.
That same day the Senate confirmedDavid Ogden as Deputy Attorney General (over the protest of many social conservatives) and Thomas Perrelli as Associate Attorney General. Attorney General Eric Holder swore them in the following day.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has reportedly moved from its previous home within the Justice Department to the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse in D.C. (which also houses the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia). District Court Chief Judge Royce Lamberth, who previously served on the spy court, apparently pushed for the move in order to demonstrate the court’s independence from the DOJ.
On Friday, March 13, the Obama Justice Department revealed its approach to the detention power in a federal court filing. As Christopher Schroeder explains at Executive Watch, the DOJ dropped its reliance on inherent presidential power, arguing instead that the AUMF provides sufficient authorization to detain suspected terrorists (who will no longer be detained under the label “enemy combatant”).
Also on Friday, D.C. Federal District Court Judge Emmett G. Sullivanthreatened Justice Department lawyers with contempt of court for failing to provide documents on a Gitmo detainee. Judge Sullivan indicated that he would “not tolerate any further delay.”
President Obama also met with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Friday to discuss energy cooperation and the global financial crisis.The Brazilian President pressed Mr. Obama to reopen trade talks which have stalled between the two parties.On Saturday, March 14, the New York Times reported that this early visit indicates Brazil’s importance to the President’s foreign policy in Latin America.
In other Guantanamo news, on March 16 Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the D.C. Federal District Court indicated that the court will try to sift through Guantanamo habeas cases before addressing any civil cases, and in Sunday’s Washington Post, Sen. Mitch McConnell tried to persuade the President that there are “no good alternatives to Guantanamo.”
Also on March 16, the President nominated Tom Perez as Assistant Attorney General over the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.
On Tuesday, March 17, President Obama named his first judicial nominee: Judge David Hamilton, currently of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, to the 7th Circuit. On a related note, the President has requested that the ABA resume reviewing prospective judicial nominees (a practice that President Bush put a stop to in 2001). Late last week, Obama also namedJudge Emily Hewitt as Chief Judge of the Federal Claims Court.
Also on Tuesday, March 17, the New York Times reports that American forces may move the burgeoning conflict in Pakistan from the tribal highlands to land under central government authority.According to reports missile strikes have forced key insurgent leaders south into Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Baluchistan Province. Key presidential aides have advised the president to sustain the drone attack orders issued by President Bush and to conduct ground actions on Pakistani soil, even if opposed by the central government.
On March 4, President Obama issued a memorandum on government contracting, directing the head of the Office of Management and Budget, in coordination with other agency heads, to develop and implement guidelines for curbing wasteful contracts.The President hopes that taking action on contracting, specifically sole source and reimbursement contracts, will save the government $40 Billion a year.
Also on March 4, the House Judiciary Committee announced that an “agreement” had been reached, under which Karl Rove and Harriet Miers will testify before the Committee. The Judiciary Committee press release notes that “invocations of official privileges [will] be significantly limited.” A couple weeks ago, Rove defied a congressional subpoena for the third time.
On the same day, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled “Getting to the Truth Through a Nonpartisan Commission of Inquiry” to discuss Senator Leahy’s Truth Commission proposal. Of the six witnesses that testified, four favored Leahy’s idea, while two opposed it. Thomas Pickering, former U.N. Ambassador and an Undersecretary of State for President George H.W. Bush, stressed the need to “know where we’ve been [and] what happened,” but David Rivkin, a senior DOJ official under Reagan and Bush I, called the commission a “profoundly bad idea” that would step on the Justice Department’s toes.
On March 5 the Senate Judiciary Committee gave its support to three key Justice Department officials: Elena Kagan as Solicitor General, David Kris as Assistant Attorney General, and Thomas Perrelli as Associate Attorney General. Some Republicans nonetheless criticized Kagan for allegedly being less than forthcoming in answering questions. The Committee vote came amidst rumors that GOP Senators would filibuster a confirmation vote for David Ogden, who won the Judiciary Committee’s approval in late February. Senator Harry Reid has moved to end debate on Ogden’s nomination; a vote may be possible by the end of the week.
Executive Watch is a blog from the Duke University School of Law’s Program in Public Law. It is dedicated to monitoring, analyzing, and providing a forum for discussion of questions of presidential power.