February 9th, 2009
01:38 PM ET
6 years ago

Leahy calls for commission to investigate Bush Justice Department

Sen. Patrick Leahy's comments are likely to re-ignite a simmering debate about how actively to focus on past political and legal policy disputes.
Sen. Patrick Leahy's comments are likely to re-ignite a simmering debate about how actively to focus on past political and legal policy disputes.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A key Democrat Monday called for the formation of a commission to launch a wide-ranging investigation of alleged wrongdoing by the Bush administration's Justice Department.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, called establishment of such a commission a "middle ground" between those who are demanding prosecutions, and those who simply want to put past disputes to rest.

"I don't want to embarrass anybody. I don't want to punish anybody. I just want the truth to come out so this never happens again," Leahy told a student audience at the Georgetown University Law Center.

A senior Republican dismissed Leahy's proposal as "politics as usual."

Leahy said he wanted a "truth and reconciliation commission" to conduct a "comprehensive" investigation into what he called illegal warrantless wiretapping and torture as well as politically-motivated hirings and firings.

He said he was open to whether such a commission would be congressionally appointed or would include Administration-appointed members similar to the 9/11 Commission. He did say any such commission should have power to subpoena witnesses and be able to grant immunity from prosecution except for perjury.

Leahy's comments are likely to re-ignite a simmering debate about how actively to focus on past political and legal policy disputes.

Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama have indicated they are cool to focusing too heavily on past arguments, with the President warning against "criminalizing policy disputes".

Holder has promised some unspecified internal reviews at the Justice Department.

Holder's office had no immediate comment on Leahy's remarks.

House Democrats led by Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers have urged an aggressive approach to holding Republican partisans accountable for Justice Department failures during eight years under three Attorneys General.

Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans have strongly rejected any further investigations.

The top House Judiciary Committee GOP member Monday blasted Leahy's proposal.

"No good purpose is served by continuing to persecute those who served in the previous administration," said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas. "President Obama promised to usher in an era of "change" and bipartisan harmony. Unfortunately, the continued effort by some Democrats to unjustly malign former Bush Administration officials is politics as usual," Smith said.

Smith cited the four detailed reports stemming from Inspector General investigations, and said recommendations made have been implemented. He said Democrats also had already conducted a two year inquiry in public hearings.

"Rather than continuing to waste taxpayers time and money on fruitless finger-pointing, Congress should focus on the future and what we can do to help the American people during these difficult times," Smith added.


Filed under: Patrick Leahy
soundoff (197 Responses)
  1. Wynter

    About time!

    February 9, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  2. Justified Cynic

    OK. So the guy that green-lighted the Marc Rich pardons is going to be investigating Bush. That's it Democrats, DISTRACT! DISTRACT! DISTRACT! As the economy worsens under Obama and reality starts to set in, I sure we'll see more and more of this nonsense from the desperate dems.

    February 9, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  3. SHIRLEY "60"

    IT'S ABOUT TIME!!

    February 9, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  4. Justified Cynic

    OK. So the guy who green-lighted the Marc Rich pardons is going to be investigating Bush. That's it Democrats, DISTRACT! DISTRACT! DISTRACT! As the economy worsens under Obama and reality starts to set in, I'm sure we'll see more and more of this nonsense from the desperate dems.

    February 9, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  5. Mississippi Mike

    Oh please. I don't think Leahy has really thought this through. What happens when Obama leaves the Oval Office and is replaced by a Republican? Will Leahy really be so excited about digging through the dumpster of the last administration to find small crimes and violations? I guarantee he will not want a future administration putting his job under a microscope.

    This is all a huge ploy to humiliate George W. It's over, BHO is in office now, look to the future already.

    February 9, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  6. gt

    leahy is a publisity hound... fix the economy ,,, jerk

    February 9, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  7. Dawn

    Sen. Leahy, you might run into a snag there, you have republicans in your Judicial Commitee. I do agree that there should be answers answered about what has taken place.

    What tricky Dick, that when the President does it it isn't illegal. Where do you draw the line and when do you Prosecute. I think that Bush and his cronies needs to tell their side, which will be a line of BS.

    February 9, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  8. Jeff

    You know what Cheney will say that Leahy can do about this....

    I suspect the ex-VP's role will be carefully examined.

    February 9, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  9. Jackson, Seattle

    So, after all the things the GOP insisted we investigate Clinton for, let's see how they react to Bush needing to be investigated.

    "Politically motivated" spin starts in 5.......4.......3.......2.......1.......

    February 9, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  10. D-MI

    This should have happened three years ago.

    Coward.

    February 9, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  11. AJ

    Leahy should be more worried about how he is going to help bring money in to his home state so that the state agencies are not decimated by job cuts which would result in the inability of state agencies to provide services to Vermonters.

    February 9, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  12. Rob

    There we go! Country's goin to hell in a handbasket, and the Dems want to go on snipe hunts.

    All the more proof now that the country is being run by a carnival of idiots.

    February 9, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    cue theme music to "Jaws" ...

    February 9, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  14. greed is not good

    Alright! Time for some blowback.

    February 9, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  15. Diana Ewing NJ

    Leahy calls for commission to investigate Bush Justice Department

    I and most of the country are behind you on this...

    February 9, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  16. Mr Magoo

    Please investigate the 9 11 commission report that was completed by bush and his dark lord dick. I don't believe a word that they put into that report.

    February 9, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  17. Diana Ewing NJ

    Leahy calls for commission to investigate Bush Justice Department
    I and most of the country are behind you on this!!!!!11

    February 9, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  18. Alfred E. Neumann

    Leahy just wants the truth to come out – sure he does.

    February 9, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  19. Had It

    Don't stop there – get the real culprits. Bush/Cheney prosecutions. Nothing less will be satisfactory. THEY RUINED our entire Continent.

    February 9, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  20. Orly

    Yes, these people should be punished, and severely. And Cheney & his cohorts as well. They are a stain on our country !

    February 9, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  21. what's wrong with seeking justice????

    unless you have taken part in criminal activities.

    February 9, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  22. Simpliticus

    Let the witch-hunts begin! Those poor saps in the Justice Department who thought they would protect Bush might have to do so by taking the fall as if they didn't think that they would be free from guilt. Bush has been very good in making underlings the fall people for his and other higher-ups' commands. Consider the Abu Ghraib fiasco and who took that fall. It was the underlings being responsible for Bush's condoning torture! Fire the first foray of shots at the Bush administration to see just how badly George W. Bush operated this country! Like a badly run fraternity!

    February 9, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  23. williefloyd

    IMHO every congressman needs to be focusing on our ECONOMY, not what Bush did. There's time for any other "projects" later.

    All congressmen would also do well to listen to Gov. Crist of Fla.-he at least shows all Reps. aren't scumbags.

    Now the great mystery, will this post or not??

    February 9, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  24. Bipartisan

    The Democrats best leave this alone. Or else somebody may want to investigate the Clinton Justice Dept.(i.e...pardoning Marc Rich which would put Obama's man Holder on trial). That would be bad for Obama.

    Let's just try to work on the economy, stupid.

    February 9, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  25. karen-Phoenix

    As a former republican and ashamed of it, I do believe Bush, Chenney and Rumsfeld ALL need to be brought before the Haig on Crimes against humanity for the slaughter they committed in Iraq, but NOT through the US justice dept. It needs to go world wide!!!

    February 9, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
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