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. Noah

    Liberals must be salivating over the prospects of this. I thought Liberals were now all about looking forward, not behind and about a new kind of politics? I guess not. It sickens me that this is how they want to treat the man who kept them safe for 7 years. Liberals would rather give legal rights to terrorists than to Bush. You sicken me

    February 9, 2009 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  2. Debra Hasan

    All you crazy folks that say to forget about, surely you must be kidding.
    You should want to get Bush, Cheny and the whole mess of republician that ruined this country. people wake up. Go Leahy and Thanks

    February 9, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  3. Marc

    I think alot of elected GOPers are worried that if some of the back room, underhanded dealings come to light, their opponents in the next race will use their voting record against them.

    February 9, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  4. walden

    Leahy...We are trying to forget that name ....Bush..... see what he did the last 8 years Please don't mention his name again....just mention the former vp dick ...ok

    February 9, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  5. Independent Paul from Phoenix

    People, please understand this:


    That means Bush had the right to fire and hire any US Attorney he wanted for whatever reason. When Clinton took office, he fired them all.

    Lehey is a dinosaur. Move on, stop looking backward.

    February 9, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  6. dan

    It was all hands on deck when it came time to investigate former President Clinton's sexual activities while in office yet when there is a possibility of a president illegeally abusing the power given to him in our Constitution no one wants to touch it! I find this to be amazing! Justice must be served, if not for us but for future generations of Americans who should never have to question our morals!

    February 9, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  7. July

    Sir ... if I were you I hire bodyguard. The Bushes and the Dickies out there will eat you alive for FINALLY having the balls to say something out loud!

    February 9, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  8. nick

    I don't know much about Mr. Leahy, but I like and support his request,
    I guess The Republicans have forgotten about the time and money spent on "Whitewater", a simple land deal. However, stepping on our Constitution appears to be something we should just let slide. . Republicans just don't get that they were elected to uphold our Constitution, and represent all the people in their districts and State.

    February 9, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  9. Deborah

    No one should be above the law, regardless of the circumstances or the inconveniences. Common criminals are being caught in the act every day by law enforcement and sent to trial, regardless of the economy.
    People in power should be investigated like anybody else. If they are innocent, there is no reason for them to fear justice. It is not fair to let these people go without any investigation just because they are in positions of power. Their power does not make them less criminal. Perhaps it's their actions are a denial we must face. It sends the wrong message to our children, the rest of the world & it has nothing to do with the status of our economy.

    February 9, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  10. obama all the way

    we know they were crimes commited and covered up, the majority in the last administration are not trust worthy.

    February 9, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  11. Adelita

    As much as I'd love to see Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Libby slammed into Gitmo, I don't want this to come out of my pocket. I have to wonder if Leahy is trying to stretch out his 15 minutes of fame, or does he make a profit from these investigations?

    February 9, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  12. returntocommonsense

    Ok folks – enough is enough. Yes, Bush/Cheney et al should be responsible for their actions.

    However, right now this is not a priority. Getting our economy going is. Getting people back to work is.

    It's time to put things in their proper prospective and get something productive done.

    February 9, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  13. george, cali

    i think the entire GOP should be investigated

    February 9, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  14. Gail

    If given to the American People, Bush/Cheney/Rice/Rumsfeld/Rove/Libby etc. and etc., would be torn into teeny tiny pieces, literally. Every American to have own a piece (ew!).

    So if you want to have a country where the rule of law is the cornerstone of our democracy, you'd dang site better investigate these thugs and bring them to justice.


    not to mention all the other crimes they committed.

    February 9, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  15. u2canfail

    I do not want a US commisson looking into anything but these banks, Wall Street, and the SEC, for now.

    The Republicans keep saying the Dems caused the meltdown with Fannie and Freddie. ( I know Bush was Godlike, I live in TN, the land of no reading). Obviously there is a disconnect. Please just watch the hearings, you do not have to read. Perhaps it had something to do with NO RULES, or supervision by the SEC, or Greed?

    If we are going to place some folks in jail, let's start with Bankers/Wall Street/SEC. It seems some made big $$ from all this. I will bet they are Republicans!

    February 9, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  16. Len

    I support Senator Leahy. He is correct, the American people deserve the truth. We were sold a bill of goods for the last 8 years!

    February 9, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  17. Gail

    It didn't start with Bush/Cheney – it started over 30 years ago – the 'conversative agenda' – Break the country, drain the treasury and ride off into the sunset.

    Bush/Cheney just made it so obvious we HAD to pay attention – but it's been going on for decades. Lying, cheating, cronyism, stealing, murder.

    Take from the poor and give to the rich – that's the Politician Motto

    February 9, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  18. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    There is _no_ "middle ground" for blatant violations of constitutionally guaranteed rights. Why should Gonzalez and the telecoms skate after bugging the entire domestic bandwidth based solely on bogus memos written by their minions saying it was OK?

    February 9, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  19. reggie

    Move on Leahy! There are much bigger issues to tackle rather than your personal vandetta against Pres. Bush. Besides, the president (whether it's Obama or Bush) has the right to hire and fire anyone he desires.

    February 9, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  20. Len

    Kevin in Ohio,

    We were under dictatorship rule under the Bush Administration! It is time for America to regain its Democratic values!

    February 9, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  21. one Eyed Bob

    What's all the fuss? As long as Bush and his crew did no wrong, why not welcome the investigation?

    I was once accused of stealing money from a co-worker's purse. When the cop on the job said they had the technology to lift fingerprints from the leather of her purse and wallet, without hestation I held out my hands to offer my fingerprints. I did so because I was innocent.

    So... if there's nothing to hide, hold out your hands: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove and the rest of the crony club. Oh and don't EVEN complain about the cost after how much Ken Starr spent to prove Clinton lied about being faithful to his wife.

    February 9, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  22. Alfaya Lewis

    And President Obama should be tried for war crimes in attacking the sovereign nation of Pakistan and murdering innocent children!!!!

    February 9, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  23. Exbricklayer

    The president has the authority to fire or hire justice dept lawyers at his leisure, this is true. Had he fired the attorneys in question on political grounds no one would be complaining, but they didnt. They fired these people on the grounds of poor performance, after they had recieved favorable performance evaluations. Bush Jr. didnt want it to look political so he lied about the reason behind the firings. Remember, President Clinton wasnt impeached over sex with an intern, he was impeached because he lied about it.

    February 9, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  24. Alfaya Lewis

    War must end NOW! We don't need to go on a new front and kill more people, including the slaughter of both American troops and innocent Afghanis. Bring all of our troops home NOW!

    Impeach Obama and bring him up on war crimes. Bring Bush up on war crimes, too. They are just as bad as each other, but if you're a Democrat, you're blinded to see the Obama evil, and if you're a Republican, you're blinded to seeing the Bush evil.

    I'm neither and see the evil in both.

    February 9, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  25. David in CA

    Our Constitution is what's made this country great, and the violation of it, whether intentiional or otherwise, should always be investigated, no matter where it leads. The oath our leaders take is to the Constitution, not to a political party, an individual, a President, or the US Government. The oath is made to uphold the Constitution. Republicans should be just as outraged as Democrats, but I suspect that most Republicans believe their oath to be to America, and what America means to them. Unfortunately, this thinking is flawed. America means many different things to different people, but the one thing that binds us together as a strong nation is our Constitution.

    February 9, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
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