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Top Obama Justice nominee withdraws

From Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Producer
  • Dawn Johnsen withdraws from consideration to lead Office of Legal Counsel
  • Johnsen's nomination faced strong Republican opposition
  • Johnsen was critic of Bush administration policies on detention of terrorism suspects

Washington (CNN) -- A controversial Obama administration nominee to a powerful Justice Department post announced Friday that she has withdrawn her nomination in the face of unrelenting Republican opposition.

Dawn Johnsen, an outspoken champion of abortion rights and a harsh critic of Bush administration policies on detention of terrorism suspects, was nominated twice by President Obama to lead the prestigious Office of Legal Counsel.

Johnsen has remained a top target of Republican critics for a second consecutive year and her nomination got stuck in the full Senate without a vote.

Johnsen is an Indiana law professor much admired by women's rights groups and progressive activists.

"Restoring OLC to its best nonpartisan traditions was my primary objective for my anticipated service in this administration," Johnsen said in a statement released Friday by the White House. "Unfortunately, my nomination has met with lengthy delays and political opposition," she said.

A statement released by the White House on Friday said that President Obama believes "it is time for the Senate to move beyond politics and allow the Office of Legal Counsel to serve the role it was intended to -- to provide impartial legal advice and constitutional analysis to the executive branch."

The Office of Legal Counsel provides legal policy guidance not only for the Justice Department, but for the entire executive branch.

Controversial memos on interrogation of prisoners, which critics insist amounted to approving torture, were written by those heading the Office of Legal Counsel during the Bush Administration.