Jeh Johnson and Harold Koh to Step Down

by Deborah Pearlstein

In case you missed it, the past week saw the announcements that both Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson and State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh would be stepping down from the Obama Administration at the end of the year. Johnson reports he’ll be returning to the private sector; Koh will head back to his professorship at Yale Law School.

The departures of course create critical vacancies in two top administration legal posts, but I think not too much significance beyond that. Both Johnson and Koh served for essentially Obama’s entire first term – an admirably lengthy tenure given the enormous personal wear and tear that come with these kinds of jobs. That Johnson’s resignation announcement followed close on his important speech at Oxford contemplating limits on the duration of the U.S. conflict with Al Qaeda (much discussed at the time, e.g., here) is perhaps noteworthy. But far more likely than there being any causal relationship between one event and the other – Johnson’s speech inevitably went through ample interagency review before it was given – it seems best to understand the Oxford speech as Johnson’s valedictory address. A useful reminder that the AUMF (among other laws) has a shelf life his successor will sooner or later have to confront.

3 Responses

  1. We can not know can we really why people do these things.

  2. iWhen it comes to a legal job, the mind’s boggled too much. One can get stressed out. Maybe that’s why they’ve decided to step down. I’ve heard from my professors that teaching’s pretty easy and enjoyable. Koh seems to know that. I don’t think there’s any political or strategical reason behind their resignations.

  3. Harold Koh would make a great Secretary of State or, later, a Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

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