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. Seth

    Why don't they go back to the Clinton Administration and find out why more were fired under him, oh nevermind, Clinton was a Democrat.

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

    Its about time the Democrats looked into the lawlessness in the Bush administration, including.....

    Disregarding our Constitution and the Geneva Convention in order to TORTURE!

    BUSH/CHENEY= WAR CRIMINALS.

    February 9, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  3. Proud Yankee

    I support this effort 100%.

    Senator Laehy; you are one of the few respectable Senators in Washington. You are a PATRIOT in every sense of the word. I have the utmost respect for you and your beautiful state. You are a great man ... now get it done! Put these crooks in prison and through away the key.

    February 9, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    What a load of feces from the GOP. Scared much? The GOP wasted our time and money with an impeachment trial based on a BJ...which of course was all just cover for them sending Ken Starr on a witch hunt for something actually deserving of impeachment. Bush and Cheney committed REAL CRIMES...against our country our citizenry and humanity in general. They actually deserve to be investigated and prosecuted.

    February 9, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  5. Gary

    Leahy wants more partisan conflict. As hard as Obama is working to be bipartisan, Pelosi, Reed and now Leahy are back to the nasty politics as usual. Leahy pushing for this will only stir up the rhetoric, bitterness and mistrust between the parties. We'll be back to grid lock as we see our economy fall apart. There must be talented people the Democratic party could put up to replace Pelosi, Reed and Leahy in the next election. Leahy is pathetic.

    February 9, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  6. Mr. Met

    Having a Democrat socialist investigate anything is like having a wolf in charge of the chicken coop

    February 9, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  7. Dont blame me

    A good start would be to investigate the democRATs and all of that TAX evading they have been doing.

    I'm sure that he would turn up at least a couple of dozen more corrupt democRATs.

    February 9, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  8. aware

    Put your effort into enforcing the ethical behavior of th- Obama Administration! Quit blowing smoke to cause a distraction in an attempt to hide democrat demagoguery! :(

    Talk is cheap Obama, it’s time for actions to speak louder than words!
    The campaign to attain celebrity status should be long past, and the used-car salesman obfuscating rhetoric is not appropriate! :(

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

    Put your effort into enforcing the ethical behavior of the Obama Administration! Quit blowing smoke to cause a distraction in an attempt to hide democrat demagoguery!

    Talk is cheap Obama, it’s time for actions to speak louder than words!
    The campaign to attain celebrity status should be long past, and the used-car salesman obfuscating rhetoric is not appropriate! :(

    February 9, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  10. fred

    How about you investigate your own party's tax returns first.

    February 9, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  11. Joanna

    It should be investigated. This is outrageous that its not! Bush abused all of his powers, undermined our constitution and ignored the internal conventions on illegal interrogation. Put it this way, just as dems are very upset with these abuses, how do you feel now that Obama has these same powers that bush basically enacted? I love Obama, but to the GOP, do you want Obama to have the power to do the same things Bush did? Listening to all our calls, firing for political proposes, ect ect, you know the deal. Does that make sense?

    February 9, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  12. Bob in Pa

    Lol, yeah ole "Leaky" laehy wants to investigate someone?

    February 9, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  13. Peter

    Republicans went too far in supporting wrongdoings of Bush administration, giving him a blank check for overspending, are responsible for the current crisis and yet trying hard to kill the stimulus package. They should learn a lesson. A thorough investigation of the past justice department is overdue

    February 9, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  14. Joanna

    The law applies to everyone, not just the elite. Stop saying that you are not going to do anything about it. It should be fairly investigated and acted on accordingly if there was foul play. Than they finding should be presented to the people that Bush worked for, us!

    February 9, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  15. pat C.

    please follow thru on this just to show america what and who we were dealing with for the last 8 years.
    thank you from america!!

    February 9, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  16. ac

    "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.

    In that case, the Republicans should practice what they preach, and get behind the already overly bipartisan bill they're wasting our time, jobs and money by obstructing.

    As for weasling out of responsibility for the past 8 years – forget it. We want and need to clean that dirty laundry, or it will continue to stink for years to come. We need closure.

    February 9, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  17. John

    I agree with the Senator from Vermont, the Justice department has been packed with conservative republicans rendering any true justice meaningless.

    It's time to correct the illegal hiring practices of the past administration and purge the department of Justice of right wing ideologues. The American democracy demands that Justice be administered in an impartial way and the Bush administration has defeated that premise.

    February 9, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  18. worriedmom

    Why don't you start investigating your own parties first before we rehash things. You should be worrying about the economy and let go of this. That is the problem with Democrats, cannot let go!!! Thought it was time for CHANGE!!!!!

    February 9, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  19. chuck

    IT'S ABOUT TIME THE BIG THREE ,GEORGE BUSH,DICK CHENEY AND DOLALD RUMSFELD ARE BROUGHT TO JUSTICE. THESE THREE MEN HAVE DRIVEN THE UNITED STATES IN THE GROUND AT HOME AND ABROAD.

    February 9, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  20. Rodney

    OK, Fine. Take the expense of this out of your pocket. Mine can't take any more.

    February 9, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  21. itbeme

    hell, I LOVED to see bush baby and his buddies go to jail....where do we sign up?

    February 9, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  22. Dina in Ashland VA

    What a shame the GOP is only interested in bipartisan harmony when they are not in power. I hope Leahy & Conyers keeps after this gang of thieves who stole lives & a great nation's conscience.

    February 9, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  23. terryrayc

    Man you Dems are sooooo one sided. How about he look into Bill's closet...lets see...strange deaths, missing(Stolven) documents, bad pardons...letting Ben Laden live when he had the chance to stop him. Yep lets take a real look into Washington. Everyone and I mean EVERYONE that has looked into it all agrees Bush didn't break any laws...but hey lets waste millions in tax payer dollars...I'm sure Obama will not care, he want's to waste Billions and Billons of dollars anyway.

    February 9, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  24. Mike in Houston

    Patrick: FOCUS on the present and getting the future right. If you want to spend time on the past, then you must not have any ideas for the future.

    February 9, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  25. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Leahy is correct. We need to see what happened during the Bush administration. There are so many questionable actions and policies that have come to light. How many more are there that we have yet to discover? Knowing what happened is one of many ways to learn about things to avoid.

    February 9, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
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