Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt last week asked President Donald Trump to reaffirm his campaign promise not to transfer terrorist detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States mainland.
In a letter to the president sent Friday, Schmidt said he was concerned by portions of the president’s signing statement on the recent government appropriations bill. In that statement, Trump suggested that Congressional funding restrictions prohibiting the use of funds to transfer detainees to the U.S. mainland interfere with the president’s authority as commander in chief.
“I have the greatest respect for your constitutional authority as Commander in Chief,” Schmidt wrote. “But I also point out that the Constitution expressly vests in Congress, not the President, the power to appropriate funds. … In this situation, Congress has exercised its constitutional authority – it has forbidden the use of any funds for the transfer of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. mainland. … The Commander-in-Chief power does not authorize any President to disregard Congress’s unambiguous prohibition under these circumstances. Even former Attorney General Loretta Lynch acknowledged that moving Guantanamo detainees to our mainland is ‘prohibited’ by law.”
Schmidt asked Trump to reassure Kansans that he remains opposed to relocating terrorist detainees to the mainland, despite the assertions in the recent signing statement.
Schmidt had previously engaged in a multi-year legal battle with the Obama Administration to obtain records of their plans to relocate detainees to the mainland. In December 2015, Schmidt filed a FOIA request for documents related to the Obama Administration’s planning to relocate terrorist detainees from the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the U.S. mainland, possibly to Fort Leavenworth. When the documents were not forthcoming, Schmidt filed a federal lawsuit in July 2016, and a federal magistrate judge ordered the Defense Department to turn over the documents. While the administration eventually produced 2,481 pages of documents, nearly all the pages were wholly or partially redacted, so very little could be learned from them. The documents did reveal that the administration unlawfully spent funds to assess potential relocation sites on the mainland, and that Department of Defense staff were aware of the concerns with the legality of their activities. The Department of Justice has continued to stonewall requests for its records related to detainee relocation plans.
A copy of Schmidt’s letter to President Trump is available at bit.ly/2ru8c19.