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John C.
Republican TX

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  • Unanimous Consent Request—Executive Calendar

    by Senator John Cornyn

    Posted on 2013-03-06

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    CORNYN. Mr. President, I wanted to come to the floor to pose a few questions to my colleague from Kentucky. First, I would say that I admire his fortitude and his willingness to ask appropriate and reasonable questions of the administration on a matter of grave importance. This is a matter no less important than our constitutional government itself that does not give sole power to the administration to make these decisions but recognizes that the Congress is a coequal branch of government. Indeed, we have important oversight responsibilities in the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and there isn't a more delicate and important matter than the limitations placed on the government when it comes to dealing with our own citizens.

    I would like to ask the Senator from Kentucky whether he is aware of some of these issues.

    First of all, shortly after President Obama took office, the Holder Justice Department declassified and released detailed, previously top- secret legal memos attempting to explain the legal rationale for the enhanced interrogation program the Central Intelligence Agency used during the Bush administration. These memos were written by the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice, which is frequently called the lawyer for the executive branch, which issues those authoritative memos. President Obama, Eric Holder presumably decided that they would release those previously classified memos that explained the legal rationale for the enhanced interrogation program.

    I would further ask the Senator if he recalls that when the Obama administration made these legal memos--highly classified legal memos-- public documents, does he remember the Attorney General made some specific comments? In fact, he said: We are disclosing these memos consistent with our commitment to the rule of law. Yet today, that same Justice Department refuses to release to Members of Congress--including this Senator, the Senator from Kentucky, and other Members who have oversight responsibilities--the very same legal rationale in this case for the drone strikes the Senator from Kentucky is talking about.

    So I wanted to ask, first of all, of the Senator from Kentucky whether he believes I have accurately recited the facts, but then to ask him whether he sees a double standard here on the part of the Obama-Holder Justice Department where on one hand they release these legal memos from the Office of Legal Counsel, and in this case, instead of releasing the legal rationale for the authority to make drone strikes, they issue what is, in essence, a white paper, or press release, that was linked to the news media.

    I would ask the Senator from Kentucky to respond.

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