Dawn Johnsen, the president's appointment to the Office of Legal Counsel whose nomination has lingered in Congressional limbo for more than a year, has officially withdrawn her candidacy for the post, according to a statement sent over from the White House.
"I am deeply honored that President Obama, the Attorney General and a strong majority of the U.S. Senate have demonstrated faith and confidence in my ability to lead the Office of Legal Counsel," Johnsen said in a statement asking for the withdrawal. "OLC plays a critical role in upholding the rule of law and must provide advice unvarnished by politics or partisan ambition. That was my guiding principle when I had the privilege to lead OLC in a past administration. Restoring OLC to its best nonpartisan traditions was my primary objective for my anticipated service in this administration. Unfortunately, my nomination has met with lengthy delays and political opposition that threaten that objective and prevent OLC from functioning at full strength. I hope that the withdrawal of my nomination will allow this important office to be filled promptly."
The withdrawal represents a major blow to progressive groups and civil liberties advocates who had pushed for Johnsen to end up in the office that previously housed, among others, John Yoo, the author of the infamous torture memos under George W. Bush.
But the votes, apparently, weren't there. Johnsen had the support of Sen Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) but was regarded skeptically by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) -- primarily for her positions on torture and the investigation of previous administration actions. A filibuster, in the end, was likely sustainable. Faced with this calculus, the White House chose not to appoint Johnsen during Senate recess, which would have circumvented a likely filibuster but would have kept her in the position for less than two years.
In a statement accompanying Johnsen's letter, White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said her credentials were "exemplary and her commitment to the rule of law has been proven time and again."
"After years of politicization of the Office during the previous administration, the President believes it is time for the Senate to move beyond politics and allow the Office of Legal Counsel to serve the role it was intended to - to provide impartial legal advice and constitutional analysis to the executive branch," LaBolt added. "He will work now to identify a replacement and call on the Senate to move swiftly to confirm that nominee in order to achieve those goals."