WASHINGTON (CNN) - Attorney General designate Eric Holder said Thursday that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba will be closed after President-elect Obama takes office, but not as soon as the administration would like.
The physical act of closing the facility isn't a problem, noted Holder. The more pressing question, he said, is the fate of the roughly 250 inmates currently being held at Guantanamo Bay.
Some of the inmates, Holder said, can be sent to other countries, while others can be prosecuted.
A third group of inmates, Holder indicated, can't be tried "for a variety of reasons" but also can't be released because they are too dangerous.
For that reason, the Obama administration won't be able to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility "as soon as we'd like."
Holder also pledged to only support interrogation techniques that are "consistent with who we are as Americans" and don't "serve as recruiting tools for the enemy." He promised that, if confirmed, the Justice Department would approve of techniques that don't violate "current treaty obligations... but (are)effective."
He cited the claims of military officials who have said that certain so-called "enhanced (interrogation) techniques" don't always produce reliable intelligence.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The first taste of the rough and tumble partisanship in the new Congress could be on public display Thursday when the Senate Judiciary Committee considers Attorney General designate Eric Holder's nomination.
Democratic Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, who controls the committee, appears highly likely to have the votes to approve Holder's nomination, but Republicans could make it a bruising and divisive confirmation fight for Holder.
Sen. Arlen Specter has vowed to scrutinize the record of the former Deputy Attorney General.
"There are questions that have to be inquired," he said.
A chief concern of Specter and fellow Republicans is Holder's handling of the controversial last-minute pardon of fugitive Marc Rich as President Clinton left office. Holder's willingness as Deputy Attorney General to go along with the pardon over the objections of U.S. Justice Department career prosecutors continues to haunt Holder, who admits he mishandled the case.
Critics also blame Holder for backing pardons for convicted FALN Puerto Rican prisoners who had committed acts of violence.
"We need to be sure the Attorney General does not bend his views in any way that is partisan or political," Specter said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Stuart Levey, a top Bush official, has agreed to stay on as acting Treasury Secretary if current Secretary Henry Paulson's successor is not confirmed by the Senate by Inauguration Day, a source close to the transition said Wednesday.
The bureaucratic move is significant because the confirmation of President-elect Barack Obama's designate for Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, has hit a snag over his failure to pay $34,000 in federal taxes several years ago.
Democratic officials said they remained confident that Geithner's nomination will not be derailed, but acknowledged that an acting Treasury secretary may need to take the job because Republican questions could delay the confirmation beyond Inaugural Day.
Levey, the Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, would be thrust into the spotlight if he gets the job. The Treasury Department is in the middle of a controversial debate among Congress and the ingoing and outgoing administrations about how the next $350 billion in bailout funds are to be spent.
(CNN) - President-elect Barack Obama's choice to head the Securities and Exchange Commission is expected to face questions at her confirmation hearing Thursday about Bernard Madoff - the alleged mastermind of the largest Ponzi scheme in history.
Mary Schapiro heads the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), which has examined portions of Madoff's firm for decades.
Now, questions are being raised about Schapiro's role in the failure to discover Madoff's alleged scheme. The SEC last week was criticized by Congress for missing red flags that alerted regulators to Madoff.
"The SEC never bothered to read the financial statements, not even for half an hour. Neither did FINRA," said U.S. Rep Brad Sherman, a Democrat from California who is also a certified public accountant.
"Clearly, Madoff's filings should have set off alarm bells, but there's a tendency in the regulatory agencies, both FINRA and the SEC, to basically say, we're dealing with gentlemen," Sherman said.
Sherman said it appears the authority missed several chances to catch Madoff.
"Then the question is - is this a systemic problem?" he said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President-elect Obama has asked all U.S. Attorneys to "continue to serve for the time being" and is not demanding immediate wholesale resignations of Bush political appointees, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.
In addition, Obama's transition team has asked current Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip, also a Bush appointee, to serve as Acting Attorney General replacing outgoing Attorney General Michael Mukasey.
Filip, a former federal judge from Chicago who has served in the number two position at the Justice Department for eight months, is expected to head the Justice Department until Attorney General designee Eric Holder is confirmed by the Senate.
The handling of U.S. Attorney departures is politically sensitive, after grumbling caused by the immediate firing of all but one U.S. Attorney by President Clinton when he assumed office, and outright anger over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys by the Bush Administration two years ago for what were widely viewed as politically-motivated dismissals.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President-elect Barack Obama defended his Treasury Secretary-designate Tim Geithner on Wednesday amid reports that Geithner failed to pay the correct amount on his taxes for a time and employed a housekeeper whose work authorization had expired.
Watch: Obama defends Geithner
Obama told reporters he did not think the controversy would jeopardize Geithner's confirmation. "Tim Geithner, when I nominated him, was rightly lauded by people from both sides of the aisle, from the market, from labor, as somebody who was uniquely qualified."
Obama said it was an embarrassment for Geithner, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, but called it "an innocent mistake."
"It has been corrected. He's paid the penalties. ... So, my expectation is that Tim Geithner will be confirmed. And my expectation is that he is going to do an outstanding job on behalf of the American people," he added.
Geithner received immediate backing from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who met with Obama on Wednesday.
Geithner "has a great resume," Graham said. "I don't see any desire by the Republican Party to play 'gotcha' on something like this. We need a new secretary of the treasury who understands where this country is at financially and has a game plan to move forward. I think he's the right guy."
But other Senate Republicans are demanding more answers on the issue.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - In an overlooked YouTube video posted on Friday, a spokesman for Barack Obama said the president-elect is committed to ending the policy that bars openly gay men and women from serving in the U.S. armed forces.
Watch: 'Don't ask . . .' may go
In a response to a question on the Web site Change.gov asking whether Obama would get rid of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said: "You don't hear politicians give a one-word answer much. But it's 'Yes.'"
Gibbs on Wednesday expanded on his answer, saying, "There are many challenges facing our nation now and the president-elect is focused first and foremost on jump-starting this economy.
"So not everything will get done in the beginning but he's committed to following through" with ending the policy against being openly gay in the military.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Continuing a growing tradition between incoming chief executives and the chief justice of the highest court in the land, President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden will visit the Supreme Court Wednesday afternoon.
The two will visit the high court in response to an invitation from Chief Justice John Roberts, who noted in a December 5 letter to Obama, a former constitutional law professor, that previous presidents-elect had visited the
Supreme Court before taking office as a courtesy "so that colleagues in public
service might become better acquainted."
"The Associate Justices and I would be pleased to see that sporadic practice become a congenial tradition," said Roberts. "You will receive a warm welcome."
Both Obama and Biden - while serving in the Senate - voted against Roberts as chief justice in 2005 and Justice Samuel Alito in early 2006.
Roberts will administer the presidential oath of office to Obama on January 20. Justice John Paul Stevens - the oldest member of the high court - will administer the vice presidential oath to Biden.
This is the third time in recent history, according to the Obama transition team, that a president-elect and vice president-elect have visited the Supreme Court. Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush visited the high court in November 1980. Bill Clinton and Al Gore visited the court in December 1992.
The previous meetings, however, were held at the suggestion of the incoming president. Roberts' personal invitation represents a change in that precedent.
(CNN) – With the nation fighting two wars, the economy in recession, and signs that congressional Democrats will be asserting their institutional independence from the very beginning of his administration, President-elect Barack Obama has still found time to attend to every detail of his transition to power.
In a letter that will appear in Parade magazine this Sunday, Obama explains to his two daughters why he decided to run for president and, in the process, forever change their lives along with his.
“When I was a young man, I thought life was all about me – about how I’d make my way in the world, become successful, and get the things I want,” Obama says in the letter published on the magazine’s Web site Wednesday. But with the birth of Malia and Sasha, “suddenly, all my big plans for myself didn’t seem so important anymore.”
“I realized that my own life wouldn’t count for much unless I was able to ensure that you had every opportunity for happiness and fulfillment in yours,” he writes. “In the end, girls, that’s why I ran for President: because of what I want for you and for every child in this nation.”
(CNN) – The incoming first family will have some expert help in making their new home their own.
Michelle Obama has selected interior designer Michael Smith to help the Obamas redecorate the private residence in the East Wing of the White House.
“Laura Bush has been a wonderful steward of The White House and created a beautiful residence for her family,” Michelle Obama said in a statement issued by the Obama transition team Tuesday evening. “I look forward to adding our own touch to the East Wing and creating a living space where our family feels comfortable, happy and settled. Michael shares my vision for creating a family friendly feel to our new home and incorporating some new perspectives from some of America’s greatest artists and designers.”
Smith, a native of California, studied at the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles and in London.
“I am delighted to work with the Obamas as they bring their own energy and style to the residence at The White House,” Smith said in the statement. “The family’s casual style, their interest in bringing 20th Century American artists to the forefront and utilizing affordable brands and products will serve as our guiding principles as we make the residence feel like their home.”
Smith also takes “particular pride in his family-focused clientele and approach,” according to the statement.
–CNN National Political Correspondent Jessica Yellin contributed to this report.