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. Jon

    Gonzalez, Cheney and Domenici should be investigated. Crimes WERE committed by the Justice Dept.

    February 9, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  2. First Things First

    But first, how about a commission to invistigate Barney Frank and Chris Dodd?????? Let's find out the role they played in the credit mess.

    February 9, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  3. Darko

    Good lord, This guy has one job only...investigate anything and everything Bush.

    What is Leahy's record with his investigations? 0-20? time to move on bud, you can only dig so much.

    February 9, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  4. Phil

    Justice in the Bush Justice Department? You gotta be kidding.

    February 9, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  5. naqib

    What a joke... two years the Dems controlled congress... if there was something they would have done it. Saber ratteling at it's finest... LOL

    How about Dem tax returns... seems to be a bigger issue there.

    February 9, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  6. Gotta blame somebody

    To be followed by Obama impeachment proceedings...

    February 9, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  7. Mike O'Brien

    I would look into everything in the 'Bush' administration. He and his administration got us into this mess and then leaves. Not to soon.., I might say. Mike in Montana

    February 9, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  8. Larry Linn

    The Bush-Cheney Administration make Richard Nixon look like the ACLU.

    February 9, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  9. Zack Greenham

    Sen Leahy, first investigate how many republican attorneys were dismissed when Obama came to DC.
    any comment on that?

    February 9, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  10. Patty in the CA mountains

    Not a moment too soon.....

    February 9, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  11. Griff

    You should be careful. It's a Boomerang!

    February 9, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  12. Ian G

    Americans have to read the page before we can turn it. I fully support this.

    February 9, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  13. Ex-Republican Gal

    I was all for moving on but after seeing how the Republicans are still behaving I would like nothing more than to see Bush and Cheney brought to justice. Their actions were inexcusable and cost lives.

    February 9, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  14. BeefyDaddy

    Its about time!

    February 9, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  15. Patty in the CA mountains

    And not a moment too soon.....

    February 9, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  16. C W

    There should definitely be a very thorough investigation. Our country and our Constitution deserve protection. Allowing the crimes of the last Administration to go unanswered will only continue to encourage people to think they are above the law – WHICH THEY ARE NOT!

    February 9, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  17. jill

    Hey Pat if this is coming out of your pocket , by all means go ahead and investigate away, if your are spending 1 dime of the taxpayers money, I think that is a waste of good money being spent on someone not worth it. Please put the money to good use and forget about Bush. We work hard for our money, and it could be spent to help people lees fortunate.

    February 9, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  18. Jaime Quiros

    Doing an investigation of the abuses of Bush era (excess & secrecy) is not politic as usual. What 2 years of investigation by Congress when Bush and the GOP used any trick to block it? Bipartisan means the opinion of both parties but GOP push just Tax Breaks & no other plans (we saw what tax breaks and deregulations do) As far as who doesn't pay taxes and keeps gifs and money without reporting that, it will be very interesting to do an investigation to BOTH PARTIES and to check the impartiality of the best political team CNN. Keep all of them honest.

    February 9, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  19. Keith

    If there are crimes to be punished you have to move forward with those prosecutions, regardless of the cost. Justice is not to be side stepped. However, this seems more like political posturing then any kind of real action.

    February 9, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  20. yuri

    Careful, Leahy. We might end up spending tax dollars in this legal process of fighting the GOP gladiators in the defence of Bush/Cheney team. Think about pursuing pressing needs of other Americans fighting scary unemployment numbers.

    February 9, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  21. Kevin in Ohio

    Another opportunity to promulgate the fabricated lies of the Left. We are headed for a dictatorship......

    February 9, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  22. barbara goehring

    How do we ensure that this abuse of power never happens again if the Bush administration is not brought to justice? This is not a choice of Democrat against Republican This is not revenge against the OTHER party. This is restoring our constitution and everything it stands for. As Americans,regardless of party,we should all be outraged at the crimes committed in our name. We as Americans should not be listening to the hate spewed on the far right and on the far left, but instead remember what is right about our country and pull together to make it better. Don't let the haters divide us. Let us unite and demand that the Bush administraation answer for their crimes and prove to us and the rest of the world that truly no one is above the law in America.

    February 9, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  23. aliou

    The only reason Republicans are still talking out there is because Pelosi prevented us in this country from doing the right thing:
    Impeaching bush and all republicans after the lies, the wars, the no bid contracts.

    February 9, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  24. STEVE R


    February 9, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  25. Ray Fisher, Albuquerque, NM

    I agree with Leahy, our nation deserves an investigation of the cause of this mess!!!

    February 9, 2009 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
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