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Republicans to Pentagon: Consult Lawyers Before Following Obama on Gitmo

Pompeo is behind a letter to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Pompeo is behind a letter to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A group of House Republicans wants uniformed military leaders to consult with attorneys before carrying out executive orders from President Barack Obama related to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  

“The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) contemplates that with respect to enlisted personnel and officers in the United States armed forces, when an order given by one’s superiors comes into conflict with the laws of this nation, the latter prevail. We believe that in our democracy — in which governance is undertaken, in the words of Founding Father John Adams, by ‘…a government of laws, and not of men…’ – that understanding necessarily applies equally to orders given by the Commander-in-Chief,” writes the group of 16 House members who are all military veterans.  

Obama is, of course, the commander-in-chief, and the mere suggestion that the joint chiefs of staff may want to seek counsel before implementing a directive from the civilian leadership would have implications beyond Gitmo.  

WH: Closing Gitmo via Executive Action ‘On the Table’ 

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The group behind Monday’s missive is led by Rep. Mike Pompeo, who hails from Kansas, one of the states with a site that has been explored as a possible home for detainees transferred out of the Navy prison facility at Guantanamo.  

“As the urgency of the threat presented by Islamic extremism grows, we cannot afford to have the commander-in-chief issue executive orders in direct contravention of laws that he enacted,” Pompeo said in a statement. “I encourage the Joint Chiefs of Staff carry out an exhaustive legal review before implementing any executive order transferring these dangerous terrorists to the United States.”  

Republicans have seized on testimony by Attorney General Loretta Lynch that, “the law currently does not allow” for transfers to facilities on U.S. soil.  

Lawmakers have long anticipated the transmittal of a White House plan to Congress for the closure of the Guantanamo facility.  

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest did not comment on a question about whether the promised plan has been delayed. He said his long-uttered prediction that it is headed to Capitol Hill “soon” remains “generally the time frame.”  

The White House views the plan as “still something we intend to submit to Congress,” Earnest said.

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