Grassley joins Paul in fight over drone memos

Senate Judiciary Committee ranking Republican Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyDozens of senators push EPA for higher ethanol mandate Civil liberties group mobilizes against surveillance amendment Brother may I? Congress must reform senseless drug regulation MORE (Iowa) on Thursday joined Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulRepublicans question Trump's trip to Scotland Hate TV customer service? So does your senator Overnight Cybersecurity: Senate narrowly rejects expanding FBI surveillance powers MORE (R-Ky.) to demand the Obama administration make public legal memos justifying drone strikes against American citizens.

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Grassley joined Paul in calling on the Senate to block the nomination of David Barron to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals until the memos become public.

Barron, a professor at Harvard Law School, authored at least one memo laying out the legal rationale for targeting American citizens overseas while previously serving as a lawyer at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). He may have had a hand in crafting as many as nine memos, according to Senate aides.

“We know that the Department of Justice relied on the legal arguments Professor Barron formulated to justify the targeted killing of an American citizen in a tribal region of Yemen in September 2011,” Grassley said on the Senate floor in reference to the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, whom U.S. intelligence officials linked to a plot to blow up a Detroit-bound jetliner.

“This nomination cannot go forward unless this body -- every member of this body -- is given access to any and all secret legal opinions this nominee wrote on this critical issue,” Grassley said.

Paul sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidHispanic Caucus PAC looks to flex its muscles in 2016 Say NO to PROMESA, say NO to Washington overreach Overnight Finance: Wall Street awaits Brexit result | Clinton touts biz support | New threat to Puerto Rico bill? | Dodd, Frank hit back MORE (D-Nev.) last week objecting to proceeding with Barron’s nomination until the OLC memos become public.

Paul raised his national profile last year when he waged a 13-hour filibuster on the Senate floor protesting the administration’s drone policy. Grassley’s vocal support for Paul’s latest critique is a sign his influence within the Senate GOP conference has grown.

The White House on Tuesday promised senators could review a secret memo penned by Barron but that has not satisfied Republican critics.

Grassley said senators need to review the full extent of Barron’s writings.

“Are senators who are up for reelection in a few short months ready to vote on this nominee without knowing the full extent of his writings on a topic as serious as the killing of an American citizen by a drone?” he asked.

“Are those senators ready to go home to face their constituents and explain that they cast a vote on that nominee without knowing all the facts?” he added.

The objections by Paul and Grassley put pressure on Democratic critics of the administration’s intelligence and drone polices such as Sens. Ron WydenRon WydenRepublican chairman: Our tax reform plan fits with Trump's vision Post Orlando, hawks make a power play Democrats seize spotlight with sit-in on guns MORE (Ore.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyThe Hill's 12:30 Report Key Sanders ally: Time to get behind Clinton Dem Senate campaign chair endorses Clinton MORE (Ore.) and Mark UdallMark UdallEnergy issues roil race for Senate Unable to ban Internet gambling, lawmakers try for moratorium Two vulnerable senators lack challengers for 2016 MORE (Colo.) to use Barron’s nomination as leverage to spur Justice to publicize the drone memos.

The American Civil Liberties Union has joined Paul in opposing Barron’s confirmation unless the memos are released publicly.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahySenate Dems rip GOP on immigration ruling Bernie Sanders’s awkward return to the Senate Senate heads toward internet surveillance fight MORE (D-Vt.) has pressed the administration for information on its legal justification for targeting U.S. citizens overseas.

Barron’s nomination passed out of the Judiciary panel by a 10-8 vote in January.

Supporters of Barron's nomination note that Republicans cannot slow the process beyond requiring 30 hours of procedural time to elapse after the Senate votes to end debate on the issue. Democrats can quash a filibuster by Paul with a simple majority vote.