Appointments, Confirmations & Budgets

Central Intelligence Agency / Ben Balter (background)

Beneath the high-profile conflicts over civil liberties or targeted killings, a myriad more mundane decisions lie at the intersection of national security and the law. Our constitutional process requires the advice and consent of the Senate for many high-level executive positions, including those responsible for national security, and each year, Congress must pass a budget that includes funding for the armed forces and intelligence agencies. Sometimes these confirmation and budgetary battles become proxy fights for larger and deeper disagreements, and often, they simply reflect the petty partisan politics of the age.

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Latest in Appointments, Confirmations & Budgets

Department of Homeland Security

The Federal Vacancies Reform Act Under Trump: The Department of Homeland Security Edition

To quote Yogi Berra, “it’s like déjà vu all over again.” For at least the fourth time in just over two years, a dispute has arisen over the president’s authority to name “acting” agency heads under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA) of 1998. This time around, the debate involves the Department of Homeland Security—and the resignation/firing/un-resignation/ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

Appointments, Confirmations & Budgets

Troubling Trends in Ambassadorial Appointments: 1980 to the Present

Since the 1950s, presidents have consistently allocated roughly 30 percent of ambassadorial appointments to individuals who are not career diplomats. This practice, atypical among advanced democracies and a recurrent source of controversy, is currently on track to expand: Over the first two years of the Trump administration, more than 40 percent of appointments to bilateral ambassadorships went to presidential supporters who are not foreign service officers. For example, Robert Wood Johnson IV—the ambassador to the United Kingdom—co-owns the New York Jets.

Federal Law Enforcement

William Barr’s Remarkable Non-Commitments About the Mueller Report

“I don’t think there’ll be a report,” President Trump’s former attorney, John Dowd, recently told ABC News. “I will be shocked if anything regarding the president is made public, other than ‘We’re done.’” Referring to a possible report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Dowd suggested Mueller won’t release a detailed public accounting of the results of the investigation because he has nothing on Trump.

Federal Law Enforcement

The Barr Nomination: Weighing Norms Against Pragmatism

A president like Donald Trump, who behaves outlandishly and governs recklessly, poses unique challenges to other institutional actors. Jack Goldsmith, among others, has identified how those who who flout norms in answering the president's own norm-busting chart a dangerous path from which there will be no simple or certain return.

Federal Law Enforcement

A New Lawsuit Against Whitaker’s Appointment Is a Brushback Pitch

Three senators—Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)—have sued President Trump and Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker over Trump’s installation of Whitaker at the Justice Department’s helm.

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