Anonymous Liberal asks why AG Mukasey is refusing to turn over the new "family jewels"–the OLC opinions authorizing torture and warrantless wiretapping. Now, as a lawyer, AL is challenging the legal basis to withhold those opinions. But I’m interested in the tactical reason Mukasey is withholding those opinions.
Delaying the OLC Opinions and Holder’s Nomination
I would suggest we think about the timing–not only of this refusal, but also recent GOP attempts to stall Eric Holder’s confirmation process.
As Pat Leahy laid out in a statement, the Republican response to early discussions of Holder’s nomination were quite supportive.
In my statement to the Senate on November 20, I commended Senators Hatch, Sessions, Coburn, and Grassley for their nonpartisanship when they praised his selection. Senator Hatch spoke of his support for Mr. Holder, his experience and reputation. Senator Sessions, a former prosecutor, U.S. Attorney, and State Attorney General who is well aware of the problems at the Justice Department, said he was disposed to support him. Senator Coburn called it “a good choice.” In addition, Senator Grassley has acknowledged Mr. Holder’s impeccable credentials while reserving judgment.
But in the last week, Specter and the Republicans have been squawking to postpone Holder’s nomination hearings beyond the January 7 and 8 timeframe when Leahy has them scheduled. They promise, they say in mock good faith, that Holder will be considered and probably approved within a week or so of when Obama takes office on January 20. But with their actions, they’re still calling for what amounts to at least a one-week delay in Holder’s swearing in.
So Republicans are now attempting to orchestrate at least a one week delay in the time when Holder becomes Attorney General, to January 27 or thereabouts.
Mukasey’s refusal to turn over the OLC opinions looks like it may cause the same kind of delay. The first report of the delay on OLC opinions–based on a December 3 Mukasey press conference–pointed specifically to the inauguration as the day when they might be turned over.
But the Justice Department’s new leaders may not gain access to the Bush administration’s most sensitive legal opinions until after the January inauguration, Mukasey told reporters in what could be his final news conference.