Steven Bradbury in 2006. (Photographer: Ken Cedeno/Bloomberg)

Senate Backs Trump Nominee Despite McCain Criticisms on Torture

(Bloomberg) -- The Senate narrowly confirmed President Donald Trump’s nominee for the top legal post at the Transportation Department despite his role in crafting legal justifications for torture during the Bush administration that drew criticism from Senator John McCain.

Steven Bradbury served as head of the Justice Department’s office of legal counsel from 2005 through 2009, and authored some of the memos that provided the legal underpinning for intelligence officers to use waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other "enhanced interrogation" techniques with terror detainees.

Senators voted 50 to 47 to confirm Bradbury as the Transportation Department’s general counsel with Republicans McCain, of Arizona, and Rand Paul of Kentucky joining Democrats in voting against him.

"I am astonished that we are here considering the nomination of a person who is in violation of the Geneva convention, the rules of war to which the United States of America is signatory," McCain said on the floor of the Senate prior to the vote. "Put simply, Mr. Bradbury’s memos were permission slips for torture."

"We are harming the commitment that our forefathers made that we are all created equal, and unfortunately we have now betrayed that sacred trust," McCain said.

Bradbury has been a partner at law firm Dechert LLP since July 2009 when he left the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. His work included representing clients involved in government investigations and enforcement actions, including some involving the Transportation Department, according to his nomination questionnaire provided to the Senate commerce committee.

"Every opinion I gave for OLC represented my best judgment of what the law required," Bradbury said in his confirmation hearing. "I certainly recognize and respect that some of the questions we addressed raised difficult issues about which reasonable people could disagree. Indeed, my opinions recognized as much at the time."

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