NYT: Obama Ignored Own Lawyers on Libya

Barack Obama overruled his own top lawyers when it came to his power to wage war in Libya — something he has done in violation of the War Powers Resolution and United States Constitution by not receiving approval from Congress.

That’s from a New York York Times “News Alert”. More information as it becomes available.

Update: Here we go. Basically, he sided with his personal and partisan lawyers close to his administration over the top legal teams at the Pentagon and Justice Department.

WASHINGTON — President Obama rejected the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department when he decided that he had the legal authority to continue American military participation in the air war in Libya without Congressional authorization, according to officials familiar with internal administration deliberations.

Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, and Caroline D. Krass, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, had told the White House that they believed that the United States military’s activities in the NATO-led air war amounted to “hostilities.” Under the War Powers Resolution, that would have required Mr. Obama to terminate or scale back the mission after May 20.

But Mr. Obama decided instead to adopt the legal analysis of several other senior members of his legal team — including the White House counsel, Robert Bauer, and the State Department legal adviser, Harold H. Koh — who argued that the United States military’s activities fell short of “hostilities.” Under that view, Mr. Obama needed no permission from Congress to continue the mission unchanged.

Koh and Bauer are both known for their left-wing, partisan political positions. And it seems as if the Obama Administration knew where it was going from the get-go:

The administration followed an unusual process in developing its position. Traditionally, the Office of Legal Counsel solicits views from different agencies and then decides what the best interpretation of the law is. The attorney general or the president can overrule its views, but rarely do.

Instead, in this case, the Office of Legal Counsel was asked to submit its thoughts in a “less formal way” — I guess leaving less of a traceable trail should the request come to light.

Obama then made his decision, which was to side with his personal and partisan lawyers at the White House and State Department– who told him what he wanted to hear — over those at the Pentagon and Justice Department.

Update X2: Something big I missed: Attorney General Eric Holder agreed with the Office of Legal Counsel’s finding. Let me stress this: Obama ignored the legal opinion of his top lawyer at the Pentagon, the top lawyer at the Office of Legal Counsel, and his own Attorney General. Instead he decided to search for the legal opinion he wanted and went with that. He opinion-shopped.

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