February 9th, 2009
01:38 PM ET
9 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. crystalm

    Bush and Cheney needs to be brought up on criminal charges for what they did to the American people and all over. They are the biggest crooks and have raped this country of it resources. This should not go un-punish. To think that they could walk away from such mess and live happily ever after, while the people of this country suffer. No, bring them to justice.

    February 9, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  2. Erik S.

    Waste of money. Just like the fringe out there who think Bush will really be prosecuted because THEY think he is guilty, it's just not gonna happen. Can we please stop wasting money on witch hunts that aren't going to do or mean anything? Folks, get based in reality, Bush and Co. aren't going to jail, no matter how much you would like it, your opinions (no matter how well or ill informed) just don't matter. If you would like to rant and rave because it makes you feel better or makes you feel like you are actually making a difference (which you are not) then fine, but the government needs to stop wasting money on these hunts to make their sides (democrats or republicans) look good in the eyes of the uninformed public.

    February 9, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  3. Dont blame me

    Face facts - karen-Phoenix - YOU were NEVER a republican. YOU have always been a LEFT WING LIBERAL.

    February 9, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  4. Veteran in Kansas

    Don't even think I can not let it go, or wish to rehash anything. I was a diehard Republican at one point in time. Today I am an individual who took an oath to protect and defend the Consitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and DOMESTIC.

    My nation and my Consitution have been under attack from within for the past 8 years. It is time to place the Consitution back in its rightful place as the law of the land, not some docuement that might offer guidance. Only those that have trampled upon the Consitution and what it represents should fear such an investigation. GO FOR IT.

    February 9, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  5. Bill

    And how much will this cost? And will this keep Leahy from working on important issues such as the economy?

    February 9, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  6. elsie

    Worriedmon, so I guess you are ok with someone using a scalpel on a detainiee's testitcles?

    February 9, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  7. Chris, Albany, NY

    It only makes sense. Repubs investigated and impeached Clinton because he was havin some "fun". This is the LEAST they can do!!!

    February 9, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  8. Gary of El Centro, Ca

    Go for it......but go all the way. Why rule out prosecutions? It's pretty obvious that crimes were committed.

    February 9, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  9. Florida John

    While you are at it, investigate the Rich Pardon and the the Obama conections. Oh and can you investigate the Birth Certificate. Don't throw stones........

    February 9, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  10. Big Ed

    'Yo, Repubicans – remember "Whitewater-gate". You wouldn't let that one go, and what did you accomplish? Spending a lot of money on nothing. Just remember, the "gate" that is put after each alleged scadal came from Watergate – the biggest scandal in recent times! The Constiution is to protect us, not for use when it serves your purpose. If there is nothing to hide, then let the investigation go forward and punish those who did wrong, if any. Otherwise you sound like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar!

    So quit your belly-achin'

    February 9, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  11. tim

    The liberals better be careful of what they ask for. Not only are they not as good as the republicans at the politcs of it all (because they are stupid), but they also have more skeletons in their closets (because they are immoral).

    Change you can believe in, sense it in my tone.

    February 9, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  12. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    JUST DO IT. There is no doubt the Bush administration is guilty.

    February 9, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  13. Pat

    Here we go again – Democrats investigating Republicans, Republicans investigating Democrats. Enough is enough. All politicians are just corrupt, fix the economy and the problems vs wasting time going after crooks who get off anyway (that goes for both parties).

    February 9, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  14. Dylan from MN

    Washington, Franklin, Jefferson and Adams would be rolling in their graves if they knew what the Bush Adminstation did. This has nothing to do with politics as usual, this isn't even on the same level as partisan politics! What the Bush Administration did was ILLEGAL, and if any president of any party abused their power in such a way, they should be brought to justice. We are a democracy not monarchy and we the American people want to see justice served to those who break the law!

    February 9, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  15. Vicki5

    I find it interesting that republicans are all about "let's just move on"–now. You all are so transparent, it's just not funny anymore. Bush and Cheney and Gang better hope the U.S. investigates the war crimes, otherwise, other countries might find a way to capture and try them themselves.

    February 9, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  16. Gary

    If the democrats had to investigate their own party, what would they find?: Bill Clinton pardoned Mark Rich for a bribe, Bill Clinton send terrorist to other countries to be tortured (rendition). Blagiovich wanted a bribe for Obama's senate seat. Tony Rezko bribed Obama through that home purchase. Obama used (and sold?) cocaine in high school. Eliot Spitzer likes prostitues. Gov McGrevy give posh jobs to his gay lovers. Gov. Corsine and Rendell instruct their drivers to speed. John Edwards cheats on the wife. Secretary Gietner, Rep Rangel, Giland, Dashle all don't want to pay their taxes. Rep Kennedy does DUI in DC and is still in congress. Rep Jefferson hides his bribe money in the freezer. Half of Obama's staff either worked as a lobbist or as a lawyer or consultant for lobbying organizations. The last thing that the Democrats need right now is more tit-for-tat investigations.

    February 9, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  17. Molly

    Its about time! ...but we all know the Dems don't have the stomach to actually go through it!

    February 9, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  18. Loyal Democrat in MD

    Yes!!!!! 1000% !!!
    Thank you!

    February 9, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  19. Erik

    When do the WAR CRIMES investigations start?

    February 9, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  20. Simmy

    Investigate, and let the chips fall where they may.

    February 9, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  21. Sye the Pychic

    Great news.

    February 9, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  22. Corey

    Letting things be is one thing, but saying that it is a waste of time is really demeaning. The last eight years were incredibly disheartening.

    I suggest that the Republicans simply sign a statement that they did stack the deck, the Democrats don't prosecute anyone – and then let's get on with the business at hand.

    February 9, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  23. Jackie in Dallas

    How come when it has to do with a Democratic President, Attorney General, et. al., the Republican Party becomes the Moral and Ethical Police, but when it comes to their own party, it is "past and should be forgotten?" Sorry, but I don't WANT to forget wiretaping of U.S. Citizens, torture of POWs, and partisan firing of attorneys, because as Santayana once said, "those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it" and I don't ever want another repetition of an Executive Branch gone wild! I don't want further erosion of our Constitution for the benefit of a few.

    I will say this, though...I don't want this to become a witch hunt. I want specific areas for investigation to be set out and publically viewed. I especially don't want this to turn into a Democrat vs Republican vendetta! We all know both parties have their fair share of wrong-doers, we don't need to rehash all that again, but some of the activities of the two Bush terms definitely need airing out!

    February 9, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  24. chuck

    My goodness!!! When the justice department in doing illegal things then you know we have problems. Characters involved in wrongdoing at the justice department have already admitted to it. They hired based on religion, political affiliation and ideology. The only question left now is who told you to do it. Since Rove and Harriet Myers will not present themselves for interrogation by answering congressional questions, then we have to dig deeper to find the truth. The problem is that the Bush administration pushed everything it touched to the limits to test the courts, the laws and the systems that were set in place, such as spying without a warrant from the proper court. They say that they were only spying on international calls, but how do we know that and how can we believe them when they broke the law to do this spying. Who is to say that they didn't spy on everyone. Are we to believe the very people that lied and deceived us in the first place? That is a little too much to ask, considering the track record of this administration.

    February 9, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  25. What is partison now?

    worriedmom, you are a fool. Not everything needs to be partison. Just because GW is a Republican and Leahy is a democrat, doesn't mean his call to investigate is partison. You just see everything that way.
    No principles from the Repupublicans.

    February 9, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
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