At the Attorney General Nomination Hearing for Loretta Lynch, George Washington University Law School professor and nationally recognized legal scholar Jonathan Turley, scathingly rebuked actions taken by President Obama and current Attorney General Eric Holder, saying that the "Justice Department is at the epicenter of a constitutional crisis.”
Turley began by stating his approval of Loretta Lynch and suggested that she would make a great leader if confirmed:
“I want to begin by saying I have great respect for Ms. Lynch, as I’ve said before, her extraordinary career as a prosecutor pays great credit to her and to her nomination. Indeed, if confirmed, and I hope she is, I believe that she could be a great Attorney General. If great leaders are shaped at great moments in history, this could be such a moment for Loretta Lynch.”
“The Justice Department,” said Turley, “is at the epicenter of a constitutional crisis, a crisis that consumed her predecessor and his department.”
“My focus therefore, of my written testimony and my oral testimony today is less on Ms. Lynch, than on a department she wishes to lead,” said Turley. “As my academic writings indicate, I have been concerned about the erosion of the lines of separation of powers for many years, and particularly the erosion of legislative authority, of this body, and of the House of Representatives.”
“That concern has grown to alarm,” said Turley, “in the last few years under President Obama, someone that I voted for, someone with whom I happen to agree on many issues – including some of the issues involved in these controversies.”
“We are watching a fundamental change in our constitutional system,” said Turley. “It’s changing in the very way that the Framers warned us to avoid.”
“The Justice Department has played a central and troubling role in those changes,” explained Turley. “In my view, Attorney General Eric Holder has moved his department outside of the navigational beacons of the first and second articles of the Constitution.”
“In that sense, Ms. Lynch could be inheriting a department that is floundering,” said Turley. “The question is whether she can or will tap back to calmer constitutional waters.”
“As discussed in my written testimony, the Framers focused on one defining single danger in our system, and that is the aggrandizement of power in any one branch or in anyone’s hands,” explained Turley. “They sought to deny every branch the power to govern alone.”
“Our system requires consent and compromise,” said Turley. “It goes without saying that when we are politically divided as a nation, as we are today, less things get done, but that division is no license to go it alone as the president has suggested.”
“You have only two choices in the Madisonian system,” explained Turley. “You can either seek to convince your adversaries, or you can seek to replace them.”
“You don’t get to go it alone, and there is nothing noble about circumventing the United States Congress, because it means you are circumventing the United States Constitution,” said Turley, “and any person who claims that they can get the job done alone is giving the very sirens call that the Framers warned against, and one that I hope this body resists.”
Jonathan Turley, returning his focus back, continued to reprimand the Justice Department.
“The American people, in my view, have been poorly served in recent years by the Justice Department,” said Turley. “The balance that has been sought, in recent years, has been lost precisely as the Framers have feared – the rise of a dominant executive within our system, a type of uber presidency.”
“It is certainly true that the Framers expected much from us, but no more than they demanded from themselves,” said Turley. “They expected this institution to fight jealously over its own authority; they gave you that authority, not to protect your power.”
“The separation of powers,” explained Turley, “is designed to protect liberty from the concentration of power.”
Turley went on saying:
“It doesn’t matter what party we’re from, and it doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t matter if we agree with what the president has done. In my view, he has worthy ends, but he has chosen unworthy means under the Constitution, and the Justice Department has been a catalyst for that.”
Turley did not spare President Obama in his written testimony either. In further expounding upon our nation’s separation of powers and the “balance sought by the Framers,” Turley had the following to say about President Obama’s executive overreach:
“… The effort to establish unilateral authority presents an existential threat to our system of government. Although the President has insisted that he is merely exercising executive discretion, any such discretion by definition can only occur within the scope of granted authority and only to the extent that it is not curtailed by the language of the Constitution. This includes his obligation to faithfully execute the law. U.S. Const. art. II, § 3, cl. 4. Some of the President’s actions can be viewed as within permissible lines of discretion. However, many of his actions cannot and are violations of his oath of office. That oath is not merely an affirmative pledge to defend the Constitution but to yield to its limitations on his own authority. To put it simply, that was the deal struck on January 20, 2013.”
Turley then charged the Senate with fixing what Obama and his Justice Department, under the leadership of Eric Holder, has seemingly broken.
“In exercising the power of confirmation, this body has a undeniable interest in confirming that a nominee will address these relational breaches, these unconstitutional actions,” said Turley.
Then, Jonathan Turley, ceremoniously concluding that Loretta Lynch will be confirmed as the next Attorney General, also charged Ms. Lynch with understanding what she is swearing allegiance to when she is sworn in.
“When that moment comes, however, there should be a clear understanding as to what she is swearing true faith and allegiance to … ,” said Turley. “The department that she leads, should be the embodiment, not the enemy, of the separation of powers.”