The “PDAG” Who Approved Harriet’s Immunity Had No Authority to Do So

There are two big tidbits in the questions Leahy sent to AGAG to "pre-refresh" his memory before he testifies next week. The first is a question that seems to suggest that the "Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General," Steven Bradbury, who wrote the opinion judging Harriet immune from compelled Congressional testimony was acting as Acting AAG of the Office of Legal Counsel, in spite of the fact that his nomination to be the AAG was already rejected by the Senate.

This Committee recently became aware of a memorandum dated July 10, 2007, and signed by Steven G. Bradbury as “Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General” for the Office of Legal Counsel.  It contends that Harriet Miers, who is a former White House Counsel, is “immune from compelled congressional testimony.”  Pursuant to what legal authority did Mr. Bradbury issue this memorandum, and how is Mr. Bradbury’s issuance of this memorandum consistent with the Vacancies Act?  At the end of the last Congress, Mr. Bradbury’s nomination to serve as the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel was returned to the President.

I’m not sure I completely understand this one, because Bradbury was, apparently, PDAAG when he was appointed to be AAG in 2005; I assume that means he would remain PDAAG, even though he failed to become AAG. But I’m guessing the sticking point is that Bradbury is effectively serving as AAG after his nomination was rejected. Leahy seems to be busting DOJ for keeping Bradbury in a functional role that the Senate has already rejected him for. If I’m reading technical jargon correctly, Bradbury can only serve as Acting AAG 210 days, which has long expired.

Note that Bradbury’s been busy in other places, such as when he testified before HJC’s Constitution Subcommittee  on domestic wiretapping.

Update: Ding ding ding ding! Here’s the relevant legal restriction:

Q22.Does the Vacancies Reform Act impose the same time limits on officers whocontinue to serve once their terms have expired as apply under the Act to thecategories of acting officers?

A.   No, the Act sets out an additional limitation on how long such an officer may continue toserve.  In addition to being subject to the general time limits of the Vacancies ReformAct, the Act also provides that the carry-over officer may no longer continue to serve on atemporary basis once the officer’s nomination is either confirmed or rejected by theSenate. [my emphasis]

Update, Correction: I’ve checked with a committee staffer, and the issue is not rejection of a nomination (Bradbury’s nomination was returned, as happens at the end of a Congress, not rejected). The issue is timing. He has served longer than the 210 day limit, so can no longer serve as Acting AAG.

  1. grayslady says:

    What, if anything, has happened on Harriet and the issue of contempt? Wasn’t she allowed 5 days to respond to why she had ignored the subpoena and then some sort of action was supposed to take place? Maybe inherent contempt charges?

  2. P J Evans says:


    Harriet tried the ’executive privilege’ argument again. I don’t remember all the details, but apparently the WH is going to use this as their all-purpose excuse for not allowing testimony.

    Time to impeach!

  3. Mimikatz says:

    So this is one more reason not to have a Congressional recess in August, although Bush may just go ahead and put who he wants in an office, regardless of whether it calls for Senate confirmation or not. He is really just thumbing his nose at the Dems. Either that or they are just running out of people to run the DOJ. Either way, the Dems had better call his bluff soon. Leahy is a nice man, but this isn’t the time for nice men.

  4. says:

    bush is thumbing his nose at the democrats, but also the american public… if the democrats can’t find a spine, they will pay a huge fine.

  5. Boo Radley says:

    emptywheel, thank you so much. I have been scratching my head wondering how Dems could begin holding the attorneys at DOJ accountable for these farcical legal opinions.

  6. Anonymous says:

    There are apparently a whole raft of appointed and hired positions that have not been officially and permanently filled. It occurs to me that perhaps it is seen as less of threat t this administration and their cronies to keep them unfilled, meaning fewer people they must control, and a side benefit is that the ones there are so overtasked they don’t have time to do their jobs, let along have time to reflect, ask questions, and â€cause trouble.â€