– Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote to White House Counsel Dana Remus
regarding reports of the formation of a ‘bipartisan commission’ to develop
policies to reform the Supreme Court and federal judiciary.
Grassley, who is returning as
Ranking Member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, pushed for answers on why the
commission was reportedly formed under the auspices of the White House
Counsel’s Office, potentially shielding it from transparency laws and public
fall, as congressional Democrats threatened their desire to pack the Supreme Court,
then-candidate Biden ducked questions about his views on the controversial plan.
Reports about the commission renew concerns that the Biden administration’s
agenda for a separate branch of government could be shrouded in as much secrecy
as Biden’s position on the matter during his election campaign.
evading public scrutiny was not the intent of this structure, the senator is
seeking a commitment from the White House that they make all records generated
by the commission publicly available, unredacted, in a timely manner.
text of the letter follows or can be found HERE
February 4, 2021
Ms. Dana Remus
Counsel to the President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20002
Dear Ms. Remus:
According to Politico
, President Biden is
constituting “a bipartisan commission to study reforms to the Supreme Court and
the federal judiciary.”
This idea was first floated by President
Biden during his campaign, when he said he would task it to present
“recommendations as to how to reform the court system because it’s getting out
of whack, the way in which it’s being handled.”
article sets forth some details about
the “bipartisan commission,” namely that it will supposedly be housed in the
White House Counsel’s Office and that one of President Biden’s campaign
attorneys, Bob Bauer, will direct its operations.
It also noted that the “bipartisan
commission” would likely include between nine and fifteen members and is
already rumored to include: (1) Cristina Rodriguez, a former Deputy Assistant
Attorney General in the Obama Department of Justice; (2) Caroline Frederickson,
the former president of the left-wing American Constitution Society; and (3)
Jack Goldsmith, a prominent critic of President Trump and former Assistant
Attorney General in the George W. Bush Department of Justice.
At least one of the aforementioned rumored
commission members supports ideological court packing, which is a direct
assault on the independent judiciary.
Leaving aside the merits of this “bipartisan commission,” of
which I am skeptical, even though I am a longstanding proponent of certain
reforms to the federal judiciary, this report presents many troubling
Chief among those are the extent to which this commission
will operate in an open, transparent manner.
If the report is correct that the commission will be housed out of the
White House Counsel’s Office, its business would likely be subject to the
Presidential Records Act, which will delay any public transparency about the
“bipartisan commission’s” activities. The Executive Office of the President is
shielded from many important public-transparency laws and I am concerned that
any efforts to house this “bipartisan commission” in the White House will
therefore shield its work from the public eye. I hope that is not the case.
I would therefore like responses to the following questions
no later than February 15, 2021:
Politico correct to report that this “bipartisan commission” will be
housed in the White House Counsel’s Office?
this “bipartisan commission” constituted under the Federal Advisory Committee
not, why not?
not, will you agree to have the “bipartisan commission” abide by the
public-disclosure rules of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, as if it had
been so constituted?
the “bipartisan commission” be subject to the Presidential Records Act?
the “bipartisan commission” will be subject to the Presidential Records Act,
will you nevertheless agree to give the public access to all unredacted presidential
records generated by the “bipartisan commission” in a timely manner,
notwithstanding the provisions of the Presidential Records Act?
this “bipartisan commission” involves the federal judiciary, will you agree to
provide the whole Judiciary Committee regular briefings on its progress?
you consider housing the “bipartisan commission” in the Department of Justice,
where its activities and findings would be subject to the Freedom of
Politico correct to report that this “bipartisan commission,” housed in
the White House Counsel’s Office, will be headed by former White House Counsel
Bob Bauer? If so, what is his employment status in the Executive Office of the
Thank you for your prompt attention to this request.