Trump Administration Facing Congressional Pressure Over American Terror Victim Case

Lawmakers are still waiting on the Trump administration to advise the Supreme Court on a case that, if taken up, would potentially allow American victims of Palestinian terrorism to collect a reversed multimillion dollar judgment, sources on and off Capitol Hill told TWS.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Palestinian Authority (PA) were found guilty in 2015 of perpetrating a series of terror attacks in the early 2000s that resulted in the death of U.S. citizens. Because the attacks occurred outside of the U.S., an appeals court threw out the verdict for lack of jurisdiction.

That case, Sokolow v. PLO, has now wound its way to the Supreme Court, which asked the administration to give its views on whether it should be taken up. But administration officials have not done so in the intervening months, despite pressure from lawmakers in both chambers.House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce urged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in mid-August to tell the Department of Justice that the State Department supports the American terror victims’ appeal for the Supreme Court to reexamine the case.

A State Department official told TWS that the solicitor general’s office at DOJ is primarily responsible for developing the government’s views—what one senior GOP congressional staffer described as a “non-answer.”

“The Office of the Solicitor General at the Department of Justice (DOJ) has the lead in developing U.S. government views on the petition,” the State Department official said. “The Department is committed to ensuring close and effective coordination with DOJ.”

The administration is facing additional pressure to move quickly on the case from the Senate side. Almost two dozen senators, led by Judiciary chairman Chuck Grassley and Florida senator Marco Rubio, stressed in a late October letter to Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the case is “now in its fourteenth year.”

The committee has not received an official response to that letter yet, an aide told TWS.

“We urge the administration to demonstrate its resolve to combat international terrorism and put American victims first by avoiding any unnecessary delay and responding as soon as possible to the Supreme Court’s request,” they wrote.

The court of appeals’ decision to throw out the verdict, the senators noted, threatens to damage a long-standing law. The Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 1992 allows terrorism against U.S. citizens to be prosecuted in the U.S., regardless of where the attack occurred—but the court’s ruling undermines that interpretation.

“If left to stand, the decision casts severe doubt on the continued ability of other American victims of international terrorist attacks to obtain some semblance of justice in our nation’s courts against the perpetrators,” the senators wrote, “and undermines a key counterterrorism tool.”

This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard

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