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. no corporate politics

    Ah yes, the rabid Impeach Bush crowd. Be careful wishing for witch-hunts. Have you googled for "impeach obama" lately?

    In 4 years you will be whining like the "leave Brittany alone" girl.

    February 9, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  2. JJ12345

    Dylan from MN February 9th, 2009 2:43 pm ET

    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 I suppose you have evidence.

    February 9, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  3. JJ12345

    Marc February 9th, 2009 3:38 pm ET

    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.
    Dems should be worried also, you never know what will come out in an investigation. Dems are not immune to this stuff either. They are all POLITICIANS no matter the party, they ALL LIE, CHEAT, and STEAL.

    February 9, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  4. Sye the Pychic

    Great,let the lynchings begin.

    February 9, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  5. ross berg- Buffalo, NY

    Seems to me that we've got enough serious problems to deal with as a nation to not be spending our time/energy on the past.

    What good will come of all this?? Let's say that they (Bush/ Cheney) are found to have clearly violated the Constitution–does anyone really believe that they would be successfully prosecuted???

    I say let them be gone and let's move on!!!

    February 9, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  6. Cleaning up after W

    Give me a break, all of you republican whiners. If it had been a Democratic administration that committed all the crimes that the Bush administration has, you'd all be foaming at the mouth. The republicans wouldn't even let rest when Clinton lied about sex, and then even went so far as to impeach him, at the great expense of the tax payers. In my book, warrentless wiretapping, torture, and lying to start a war are much more serious than lying about an affair.

    Cry me a river, hypocrits.

    February 9, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  7. steve r.

    Can you say " PAPER SHREADER"

    February 9, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  8. Eyes of Texas are Upon You

    Move on Leahy!! Give it a rest and thank your lucky stars this country was not attacked again! You'd better watch your loose cannon, Biden, as he is out there saying some pretty stupid things, i.e., 30% failure? Some VP the chosen one "chose"! Besides, don't you have some economic worries?

    February 9, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  9. Tony

    It's about time!

    February 9, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  10. Independent_me

    This has to be done else a very bad precedent will be set. It will mean that future presidents will do whatever they want to do, and get away with it. WE must force them to uphold the Constitution...else why even bother having one?

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

    It is about time these things are investigated, They broke the law refusing to honor sopeonas, and need to be looked at more closely. The only people wanting it to go away are the ones wnat ing to hide the Repulican crime machine. First Watergate, then Iran Contra, Then Bush.

    How can you people sleep at night spening 10s of millions investigating a voluntary, consentual BLOW JOB, and demanding that REAL criem gets hiddne and ignored??

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

    You democrats are such simpletons it's astonishing. What exactly would Bush be tried for? Saddam Hussein repeatedly violated the terms of the Gulf War cease fire.....any which could have legally justified a resumption of the war. WMDs? Every country with an intelligence agency reported that he had WMDs. Even your beloved Bill Clinton reported that he had WMDs. In fact he did have them and he used them on his own people. Inspectors were not allowed to do their job which was yet another violation of the cease fire terms. Gitmo? Great idea that continues to serve a useful purpose and shouldn't be closed. Abu Graib? Most overblown story in the history of journalism.

    February 9, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  13. Justified Cynic

    So the guy that green-lighted the Marc Rich pardons is now going to investigate Bush. Ha! What a joke!

    Since they have no ideas or solutions, all the Democrats can do is distract by harping on the past. As the economy worsens under their control, the Democrats will become more and more desperate and you will see more and more political stunts like this one.

    Democrats: Before you go investigating others, why don't you START PAYING YOUR TAXES!

    February 9, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  14. Jeanne H.

    Bush broke the law over and over again. He made a joke out of this great country. Maybe he thought he got away with it now that he is no longer president. But on one should be above the law. No one. I support efforts to investigate Bush's administration.

    February 9, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  15. Ep from Tampa

    First off know what type of government we have. We do not have a democracy, but a constitutional republic. I bring this up because so many people talk about the constitution but then talk about our democracy. Similar yes, but not the same. Now on to the topic at hand.

    If you're Obama supporter and are in favor of this then you're setting your man up for failure. Obama has some good ideas that I support, but his biggest problem is the far left of the democratic party, bogging him down, not the republicans. The Dems managed to lose (yes LOSE becuase all Gore had to do was carry his home state and this wouldn't be an issue. I mean really, what type of candidate can't even win their home state? Come on, even Mondale won MN.) the 2000 presidential campagin, and are so busy with their own agenda's (that would be you Ms. Pelosi) that they're not supporting the president.

    Obama has done an excellent job looking to the past to guide his presidency and is following Ford's example, which, like it or not, is the best course of action if he want's to achieve any of his larger goals over the next 4 years. If you want Bush brought to trial go find the next David Frost and let him or her do it.

    February 9, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  16. TheThinker

    Finally! Somebody is at least stepping up to the plate to investigate the last administration.

    February 9, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  17. California Gold

    Refreshing. Leahy is calling for an investigation of the Bush Justice Department dealings. Clearly there were problems at Justice. and those who govern should demand problems be investigated. If a Congressman says "awwww let's develop a big blind spot and move on" we should be outraged. I commend Leahy.

    February 9, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  18. Gerry in Va. for Obama.

    I don't think this government, especially Palosi, has the guts to investigate anyone. Look at how Bushes Brain got away with refusing to show up for ANY legal investigations. So how are they going to get these guys to show up for the questioning?? I think most of these senators are gutless unless it comes to spending our money and then they are great balls on fire... It's no wonder the Repugnicons out fox them all the time.. Buncha pusses...

    February 9, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  19. Donna from Colorado Springs

    All of Bushs wrongdoings and out and out illegal manuevering to get his way should absolutely be investigated, but they won't. Pelosi and all the other power brokers will just sweep everything he did under the rug as not to rock the boat!

    February 9, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  20. Donna

    This should'nt be shoved under the rug! Bush and his cronies are not above the law! This needs to be addressed so it can never happen again. People in power have got to abide by the laws of this country just as much as the rest of us if not more!!! Who are they to get away with it?

    February 9, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  21. BB

    Let us show the rest of the world that we respect the law and our Constitution. Let justice be served!

    February 9, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  22. Joshua College Station Texas

    Do we believe in the rule of law or don't we?

    The problem is, all our leaders are afraid to cast the first stone, because none of them are innocent.


    February 9, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  23. Ken

    Hummmm. Maybe I do agree with the [R]s on this one point: where's the "change" in continuing to throw crooked [R]s in jail? I mean, that's already been happening for the past 8 or more years quite regularly. Now I finally realize why the [R]s themselves are so deperate for "change".

    Dispatch for the pony express riders and telegraph lines that lead into the [R] strongholds: the "change" that Obama talks about, is the change to holding the crooked [R]s even MORE accountable!

    February 9, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  24. former republican

    Its about time!

    February 9, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  25. In Houston, TX

    The United States of America is a reflection of what is best in humanity. We are what everybody else wants to be. There are people all over the world dying to live in this country and share in what we call the American Dream and with pride put the word "American" at the end of their ethnicity. The politicization of the DOJ takes us down a peg. The fact that we sactioned torture, takes us down. Our reputation and our image has been tarnished and must be redeemed.
    There are those out there with foolish pride blinding them to the simple issue of right and wrong when it comes to our country and there are those of us who rightly gaurd this nation with criticism and when she is wrong we fight to make her right and realize that we are always in a constant state of improvement, always trying to form a more perfect union.
    The Bush administration is guilty of torture, warrentless domestic wire taps and the politicazation of the DOJ. Justice must be restored in this nation.


    February 9, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
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