Washington (CNN) – The leading Republican in the Senate said Sunday that the previous Republican administration had been mistaken in ever trying alleged terrorists in civilian federal courts.
“The only time [the Obama] administration ever cites the previous administration for a precedent is to mention that there were some terrorists tried in U.S. courts,” Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Sunday on State of the Union.
“We now know that was a mistake,” declared McConnell. “That was a mistake by the previous administration. The other mistake they made that shouldn’t be replicated by this administration is letting too many people go from Guantanamo.”
Instead of giving alleged terrorists civilian trials in federal court, McConnell said the administration should use the system of military commissions set up by Congress “for the specific purpose of trying foreigners captured on the battlefield.”
“They ought to be tried in these military commissions. They also ought to be detained at Guantanamo,” the Senate Minority Leader said.
The new debates over a jobs bill and what it would take to put Washington on a more bipartisan path were major topics of Sunday conversation. But the most crackling issue was a more familiar subject: the treatment of terror suspects including the White House plan to bring several 9/11 suspects to trial in federal court instead of the military justice system.
“Absolutely,” was Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell’s answer when asked if he would lead an effort to block funding of any plan to transfer alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other alleged accomplices to U.S. soil for open trials.
“Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is going to meet justice and he’s going to meet his maker,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said bluntly, even as he could not say just where any KSM trial would take place.
Massachusetts Senator-elect Scott Brown also made his Sunday show debut, describing himself as a “big tent person” eager to push for more transparency – and less spending – when he joins the Senate Republican Caucus as its 41st member in February.
“I don’t even have a business card,” he said when ABC’s Barbara Walters asked about speculation Brown might already be looking at a 2012 presidential run.
On the subject of business cards, mine will soon be changing – to reflect a move to Monday-Friday for a new evening news program.
Beginning next Sunday, “State of the Union” will be in new – and talented – hands: CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley is taking over, and talked a bit about her hopes for the program.
“I hope to have some fun. …I think sometimes we tend to flatten out our politicians, make them caricatures, when you and I know they are actual people with some interesting and charming elements. I hope to continue what you did, really, which was making that connection between people’s real fears and hopes, and the people who are in charge of seeing if they can do anything about it. …What a great year to be starting something new.”
Now, the Sound of Sunday highlights, beginning with the feisty faceoff over terror trials.
Washington (CNN) - No decision has been made on whether to change the current plan to hold the September 11 terrorist attack trial in a civilian court in lower Manhattan, White House officials said Sunday.
Last week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other politicians expressed concern over the costs and disruption of holding the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four accomplices at a New York City courthouse.
David Axelrod, the senior adviser to President Obama, and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Sunday that Obama believes the trial should take place in a criminal court instead of before a military commission, as permitted for some terrorism suspects.
However, Axelrod and Gibbs acknowledged that Obama and the Justice Department were considering moving the trial from New York City.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell showed little willingness Sunday on CNN's State of the Union to seek common ground with Democrats on top legislative priorities. (Photo Credit: CNN)
(CNN) - Despite White House overtures for congressional Republicans to work with Democrats, GOP leaders indicated Sunday they were unwilling to accept much of what President Barack Obama and the Democrats are proposing.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell showed little willingness on CNN's "State of the Union" program to seek common ground with Democrats on top legislative priorities such as health care, a jobs bill or creating a
bipartisan statutory commission to come up with plans to reduce the federal deficit.
His counterpart in the House, Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, was more blunt.
"There aren't that many places where we can come together," Boehner, R-Ohio, told the NBC program "Meet the Press."
Republicans were elected to stand by their principles, and those principles are different than the "leftist proposals" offered by Obama and congressional Democrats, Boehner said.
Washington (CNN) – The Obama administration is undaunted in its desire to bring to justice the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks despite an apparent setback in its plans for a civilian trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Sunday.
Mohammed “is going to meet justice and he’s going to meet his maker,” Gibbs said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.
“In a federal courtroom or in a military commission?” CNN Chief National Correspondent John King interjected.
“He will be brought to justice and he is likely to be executed for the heinous crimes that he committed in killing – in masterminding the killing of 3,000 Americans. That you can be sure of,” Gibbs told King.
Asked again whether the administration still wants to try Mohammed in a civilian federal court or would, instead, consider a military tribunal, Gibbs pointed out that other terrorists who targeted the United States have been successfully tried in the federal courts.
Instead, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, suggested Sunday that, during tough economic times, a commission charged solely with reducing spending was a better approach to reining in the federal budget deficit.
Last week, the Senate rejected a proposal co-sponsored by Sen. Judd Greg, a New Hampshire Republican, and Sen. Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, that would have created a bipartisan fiscal commission. The commission would have been charged with making recommendations to Congress regarding cutting spending and raising revenue. The recommendations would have been binding in the sense that Congress would have only been able to accept or reject the recommendations wholesale in an up-or-down vote; Congress would not have had the power to alter the commission’s recommendations before implementing them.
The proposal failed to garner the 60 votes necessary for passage in the Senate after seven Republicans who had previously supported the plan decided to vote against it.
McConnell defended his seven colleagues and pointed out that the president himself had decided only days before last week’s vote to back the proposal after coming under political pressure from moderates and conservatives in Democratic ranks.
McConnell also said Sunday that the nation’s fiscal challenges had more to do with excessive spending than with insufficient taxation.
Washington (CNN) - Democratic efforts to pass a health care bill have stalled a bit, and the immediate focus may be shifting toward health insurance reform instead of quickly trying to pass a comprehensive bill, White House officials signaled Sunday.
Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, told CNN's "State of the Union" that passing a health care bill was "still inside the five-yard line." His comment pulled back the assessment several weeks ago by David Axelrod, the senior adviser to President Obama, that the bill was on the one-yard line, which in football would mean it was close to passing.
On the NBC program "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Axelrod referred to the issue as health insurance reform when talking about next steps.
"The American people aren't saying let's walk away from health insurance reform," Axelrod said, citing problems such as rising costs, people denied health coverage for pre-existing conditions, and people losing coverage when they become seriously ill.
Washington (CNN) – President Obama remains committed to his pledge to cut the federal budget deficit by late 2012, a White House spokesman said Sunday.
Soon after taking office last year, the president pledged to reduce by half the budget deficit his administration inherited from his predecessor.
Asked about that pledge on State of the Union, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told CNN’s John King that Obama “is committed to keeping that goal, understanding, that as you said, this recession was deeper than we thought it was going to be.”
On Monday, Gibbs said, Obama will outline some steps intended to reduce the deficit, including a freeze on non-security-related, discretionary spending.