The Department of Justice under President Barack Obama's watch has involved itself more with pushing an ideological agenda than enforcing the nation's laws, according to attorneys speaking at the Republican National Lawyers Association's annual National Policy Conference in Washington.
M. Edward Whelan III, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative nonprofit, started off the discussion titled "The Rule of Law versus The Obama Justice Department" by outlining his view of the "administration's malfeasance" and the "DOJ's sabotage" of the Defense of Marriage Act.
The administration's decision to not defend the law in court, rooted in the view that the law unconstitutionally discriminates based on sexual orientation, is just one example of the DOJ's abandonment of its stated mission to provide for impartial justice, Whelan said.
Another example Whelan pointed to was the administration's rejection of ministerial exemptions from employment discrimination laws, a stance that was rejected in a 9-0 vote by the Supreme Court.
In terms of national defense, the problem does not stem from the Justice Department's refusal to defend the law but rather is the result of a pattern within the administration to take action without an explanation as to the legal precedent that gives them the authority to do so.
Kathryn Wheelbarger, senior counsel of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said that Obama has repeatedly failed to explain to lawmakers where he derives the authority for many of his decisions, leading to executive-legislative friction.
To illustrate her point, Wheelbarger raised the debate over whether the United States should have provided forces to help oust former Libyan head of state Muammar Gaddafi. While both congressional Republicans and the president advocated for the United States' intervention, Obama's proposal for American forces to lead the United Nations effort was light on the legal details that gave him the authority to issue such an order, she said.
"How does a member of Congress, who's up for reelection," agree with an opposition-authored proposal that lacks this justification, Wheelbarger asked.
The effect, she said, is that it makes it more difficult for GOP lawmakers to side with the president even when the two parties agree on an outcome. This can lead citizens to view congressional Republicans as unwilling to cooperate on popular measures, she said, "which is their [the administration's] point."
Panelists also warned of a "radicalized" voting section within DOJ.
A former DOJ voting section attorney, J. Christian Adams, said that Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has stacked the deck in favor of Democrats by hiring lawyers who have previously worked with far-left organizations like the Junta for Progressive Action. This selective hiring has permeated the voting section to the degree that Obama election posters graced the walls of the section's office space even after a memo was distributed instructing employees to remove them, he said.
"This administration has infected the department with radicals and radical policies," Adams said, adding that the next attorney general, presumably a Republican, would be faced with the "mighty task" of undoing the damage done by the current leadership.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor couldn't immediately be reached for comment.