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. Larry Houston Texas

    THANK YOU Diana , Ewing, NJ..............wouldn't have said it better myself.....(however, if you put the Bush & his cronies in front of a firing squad, it would help taxpayer money) (from doing all the investigations) & etc..

    February 9, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  2. Jackie in Dallas

    "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it" and I don't ever want to see our Executive Branch go wild again and erode our Constitution, act in contempt of Congress, and hide their activities under a cloak of "national security". I DO NOT want a witch hunt, but I don't want this to sweep under the rug, either. We The People have a right to know...Congress and the President work for US! And the Justice Department should be one specific government organization free of partisan taint (as much as possible).

    February 9, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |

    indeed the republicans are tyhe most slimy and decietful segment of the American population, each time the odd is against them they tend to sound good, imagine Rep. smith,R-texas warmly reciting president Obama 's call for bipartisan harmony in the face of an obvious crime perpitriated by Bush and his cohorts, and this latest decietful comment is coming from a man who's a prominent republican in the house in which no single republican supported the bipartisan crusader's[ president obama'] stimullus plan, nothing can be more synical. Americans the GOP'S ARE YOUR PROBLEM !!! BE WAREEEEE

    February 9, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  4. Rick

    Here's a few more people you might want to investigate:

    1) Barack Obama
    2) Michelle Obama
    3) Bill Clinton
    4) Hillary Clinton
    5) Rahm Emanual
    6) Rod Blagoevich
    7) Eric Holder
    8) Timothy Geithner
    9) Tom Daschle
    10) Hilda Solis
    11) Bill Richardson
    12) Nancy Killefer
    13) Barney Frank
    14) Chris Dodd
    15) William Jefferson
    16) Sandy Berger

    There's just a few to get you started with. There's plenty more where they came from.

    February 9, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  5. Me

    What about Charlie Rangle's tax evasion investigation?

    What about William Jefferson's bribery investigation?

    What about Chris Dodd's VIP Countrywide sub-prime loan investigation?

    Oh, wait, my bad, those are all Democrats. Never mind . . .

    February 9, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    @ Bipartisan

    You, sir, are incredibly uninformed. The POTUS has an ABSOLUTE power to pardon or grant clemency. Holder had nothing to do with Clinton's decision, because you know what? Clinton didn't have to listen to ANYONE whatsoever in exercising that power. Holder cannot be prosecuted for it both because he did nothing wrong and because quite simply, he did nothing.

    February 9, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  7. The lonely Libertarian of Liverpool

    Witch hunt, Witch hunt, burn them burn them....what century are we in again?

    February 9, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  8. Donna A. Reuter, Bremerton, WA

    The Bush Adminstration committed war crimes and sould be made accoutable for their actions, if not under universal juridiction when President Bush, the Vice President, and other members of the Bush Administration there will be (or there are) warrants out for their arrests issued.

    February 9, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  9. Rick Sutter

    ...another typical Demwit maneuver that will waste money and go nowhere. Where's the investigation of Barney Frank and Chris Dodd, the major architects of the mortgage meltdown?

    February 9, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  10. Frederick Aikens, NC

    There have been some serious violations of law and privacy over the last 8 years. I am a victim of some of this and currently have a lawsuit in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals against a national guard general who intercepted emails to or from me over an 8 month period while I was deployed to the Iraqi Theater fighting on behalf of this nation. the Army has done everything they can to cover this up. If you're not going to exercise your constitutional responsibilities regarding checks and balances, then get out of the Congress. If you allow the practice of the last 8 years to go uninvestigated and unpunished, you will repeat this all over again. What some folks learned over the last 8 years is how they think and expect they can operate. They are still in the system. I am stunned at the abuses I've seen and some of these abuses have filtered down through some state governments. Investigate, identify law violations, give due process, and punish, where necessary. We are a nation of laws and no person is above the law.

    February 9, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  11. Jackson, Seattle

    worriedmom February 9th, 2009 2:27 pm ET

    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!!!!!

    And here comes the spin....investigate anything and everything when it came to Clinton, but all the Bush babies want his 8 years of injustice swept under the rug. Oh so very typical.

    I guess the GOP is just afraid the bad press from the investigation would further sink their party into oblivion.

    February 9, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  12. Donna A. Reuter, Bremerton, WA

    I forgot to add that Members of Congress who knowingly supported the Bush Administration and their criminal effort, should be charged as accomplices.

    February 9, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  13. BB

    It is time to prosecute Bush and Cheney for war crimes. We cannot afford to be preoccupied with the economy and forgetful of the past. The rule of law and the Constitution must be served.

    February 9, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  14. Pepper Hanrahan

    Of course there needs to be further investigations! I would like to see several Bush, Cheney, etc be investigated for treason...crimes against the people of the United States!

    February 9, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  15. Sebrina Alfonso

    Bush/Cheney made me understand how horrible things like the holocaust happened. This country's govt. played politics and let him get away with it. Not every situation should go with the majority vote.
    Any kind of human opression and equal rights is wrong whether people like it or not. We are all equal and it seems to me that as long as it applys to other countries or gays or the like then the "states" have a vote in this. That is so far from the premise of this country. We cannot allow voting against any kind of oppression just because someone doesn't agree with it.
    I hope our new govt. does not stand back and allow what Bush and CHeney did and I especially hope We as a People, never allow our rights to be taken as we did in the Bush years.

    February 9, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  16. JS

    Instead of being interested so in what the past administration has done-–Let's investigate the now Whynot be more interested in Obama taking the 2010 census from the Commerce Department? Geinther not having enough integrity to resign–? Shauna Daly?

    February 9, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  17. Chad, Wisco

    And this will solve what? We are currently in a huge economic downturn and you want to spend millions/billions on something that doesnt change anything. I wish I could live in your state just so I could not vote for you. Most will agree that this should be done, but common you really think now is the best time?

    February 9, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  18. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    Yeah, good idea–and I used to be a Republican.

    February 9, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  19. Steve (the real one)

    Sure go ahead and open up that door but don't be surprised by the amont of just as guilty Democrats gets swallowed up as well!

    February 9, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  20. Sniffit

    sniff sniff sniff...I smell GOPer fear...sniff sniff sniff

    February 9, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  21. Jeff

    Better late than never. For what it is worth add my name to list in support of forming a commission. I agree with others comments that getting our economy back on track is priority number one, however, in the interest of the future of this country, if ANYONE is found to have broken or ignored the laws of our country justice must be served. Without justice there is no true democracy. Whether from a political, legal, or militaristic standpoint true freedom/ democratic ideology is not free.

    February 9, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  22. Han

    Leahy, You are an idiot. We are trying to get the stimulus money to get Americans back to work and imporve economic situation. Now you want to investigate the past. Actually you yourself have to investigated. Did you pay your taxes?

    February 9, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  23. Maria, los Angeles, Ca.

    que sera sera, whatever will bE, will bE the future is ours to see, que sera, que sera, HANG THEM BOTH!!

    February 9, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  24. Jim

    Had it: Get a life. You, I and the rest of America are responsible for the status of this country. We keep electing the same group of irresponsible idiots election after election, knowing they are not doing the job we sent them to do. The was this country is goes back to Bill Clinton. He started the ball rolling on Fannie and Freddie. Guess what, it has come home to roost.

    As for investigating. How many investigations have we had that ended up worth the time spent. When you have one crooked politician investigating another, you aint gonna get anything but junk.

    February 9, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  25. Tennessee Libertarian

    Another example of useless government "pork".

    Wasting time on spilled milk – Leahy is as useless as teats on a boar hog –

    If I'd been Cheney, I'd a probably told Pat the Prick the same thing!

    February 9, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
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