Speaker Ryan: 'We Are Making Legal Preparations if the President Tries to Break the Law'

By Susan Jones | February 24, 2016 | 10:33 AM EST
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - President Obama "can try" to go around Congress in his attempt to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay Cuba, House Speaker Paul Ryan told news conference on Wednesday. "He has no authority to do so," Ryan added.

Ryan reminded reporters that Congress voted overwhelmingly for the National Defense Authorization Act, which contains a provision saying the president may not move Guantanamo inmates to U.S. soil.

"We are making legal preparations if the president tries to break the law," Ryan said. "And what boggles my mind, is that the president is contemplating directing the military to knowingly break the law.

"Our law is really clear, and by the way, Democrats wrote this law when they were in the majority, when they ran Congress, which is, these detainees cannnot come to American soil.

"So if the president proceeds with knowingly breaking the law and asking the military to break the law, he will be met with fierce bipartisan oppostion here in Congress, and we're taking all legal preparations necessary to meet with that resistance.

"He can't do it because the law is really clear," Ryan said.

But the White House on Tuesday refused to rule out executive action:

Spokesman Josh Earnest was asked multiple times if President Obama would use executive action to close Guantanamo.

"The president himself has considered this question," Earnest told reporters. "And what he has said publicly is that our focus is going to be on working with Congress."

Earnest said the White House is "not going to take any of the president's options off the table."

And he said if Congress would simply give "legitimate consideration" to the president's plan, "that would  make any sort of discussion about the president's executive actions obsolete. And that's why we're going to go ahead and continue to put pressure on Congress to do the right thing."

Earnest twice refused to give a yes or no answer to questions about whether Obama can still close Guantanamo Bay detention center if Congress fails to approve his plan.

'We'd be prohibited from doing so'

Attorney General Loretta Lynch told a House hearing on Wednesday that she expects to Obama administration to work with Congress on the plan to close Guantanamo.

"Certainly in light of the current statutory framework, we anticipate that that is what will occur," she said.

Asked if the Justice Department would take any action to transfer detainees, which is against the law, Lynch indicated no:

"Well certainly -- that we'd be prohibited from doing so -- I'm not aware of any -- of any efforts to do so at this time, in any event."

Under Obama's plan, around 35 of the 91 current Gitmo detainees will be transferred to other countries in the coming months, leaving up to 60 detainees who are either facing trial by military commission or are determined to be too dangerous to release.

Those detainees -- the worst of the worst -- would be relocated to a so-far-unnamed U.S. prison.