January 31st, 2010
06:56 PM ET
13 years ago

McConnell: Bush was mistaken to try terrorists in civilian court

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/01/31/art.mcconnell0131.cnn.jpg caption="Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took issue Sunday with many of the Obama administration's policies relating to treatment of alleged terrorists."]
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 Obama administration has missed its own self-imposed one-year deadline for closing the U.S. military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba were a number of suspected terrorists have been held after being captured. Last week, the White House also began to signal that it was rethinking its plans to hold a high-profile trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks, in Manhattan federal court not far from Ground Zero. The turnabout on the Obama administration’s part regarding the trial came after elected officials and business people in New York City raised concerns about security and the high costs of protecting the city during such a large-scale event.

“What we need to do is to deny these people a show trial,” McConnell also said Sunday in a reference to what some observers believe would be a media circus if Mohammed is tried in an open civilian court. “We need to proceed to interrogate them,” McConnell added.

“This is really dangerous nonsense,” McConnell said of the Obama administration’s policies regarding treatment of alleged terrorists. “We have a way to do it, John,” McConnell told CNN’s John King. “Interrogate them. Detain them and try them in military commissions offshore at Guantanamo from which no one has ever escaped.”

Asked whether he was ready to deny the White House the funding necessary to close the Guantanamo Bay facility and move detainees held there to a location somewhere in the United States, McConnell responded, “Absolutely.” He predicted that there would be bipartisan support in Congress for withholding the funding.

soundoff (248 Responses)
  1. Perusing-through

    Mitch McConnell is a big example of the hypocrisy coming from Republican Senators. President Obama has continued a number of policies that previous Republican Presidents have administered, yet Republican hypocrites like McConnell, Mike Pence, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Marsha Blackburn, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Bachmann attack only Obama and not Bush or Reagan for doing the same.

    January 31, 2010 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  2. Lucky

    This guy is proof that all politicians no matter which rock they hide under
    are slimy this country should be getting sick of this divisive horse manure ..

    January 31, 2010 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  3. 21k

    NOW he tells us! Wonder what made him say this now? Maybe in his old age he's becoming nostalgic for the days when elected Republicans were allowed to think for themselves and not just parrot the FOXNEWS talking points.

    January 31, 2010 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  4. Dick

    "The other mistake they made that shouldn’t be replicated by this administration is letting too many people go from Guantanamo.”

    Is Mitch saying that Bush only made two mistakes during his administration or only two that shouldn't be replicated?

    January 31, 2010 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  5. Gordon Shumway

    Absolutely too logical. Obama will never buy it!

    January 31, 2010 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  6. Let them all go

    let them all go

    January 31, 2010 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  7. Lee in TN

    These neo-con republicans are really comical. When Bush tried terrorists in the public court system, they adamantly defended him. Now that the Obama Administration has done the same, they say Bush was wrong. These career politicians will run with what ever story fits their political agenda at the time. Their agenda will always be "Politics Over People".

    January 31, 2010 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  8. LouAz

    Yea, we should have acted before Pearl Harbor, and not let Presidents go to the theatre, and we paid too much for the Louisana Purchase, blah, blah, blah.
    Tell us, oh great Flat Earter, just how many trials have been conducted by the special Military Courts you and the Constitutional Scholars Bush and Cheney created ? What was the conviction rate ? What were the sentences ?
    You had 7-8 years to get bin Laden, and you shirked your clear responsibility. Shut up and sit down. The adults will take care of this.

    January 31, 2010 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  9. Dan

    All these Republicans praised Bush and the greatness of our justice system when they tried Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui in civilian courts. To say now that it was a mistake without saying why is completely disingenuous and obvious political postering.

    January 31, 2010 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  10. John in Iowa

    'The Constitution doesn't apply to non-citizens'
    Really? so what about non-citizens in the US? Are you suggesting they have no protection under the constitution?

    January 31, 2010 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  11. Dan

    Yikes! I am truly dismayed at the rancor on both sides. I know I personally struggled with the concept of habeas corpus for terrorists while trying to balance security and the fact that these people operate outside of a 'country' or remotely gain the rights as enemy combatants under Geneva. There are strong arguments on both sides and respect for the other view shouldn't be hard to achieve.

    January 31, 2010 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  12. Hermann_Hesse

    Mitch Mcconnelllllllllllll such a hip guy.

    January 31, 2010 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  13. Ancient Texan

    Liberals love for terrorist is totally unbelievable. Military tribunals are designed specificly for this situation and Gitmo is the perfect place for the trials. Enemy Combatants have no civilian rights to a trial in the American Court system. Without uniforms, serial numbers, and a country they are representing they don't even qualify under the Geneva Convention. Also we can and did hold over 425,000 German POWS here in America in prision camps until the war was over, and they did not get lawyers and trials.

    January 31, 2010 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  14. ATL Guy

    I honestly can't wait for these guys to get back into power. The country will regret giving them the five minutes they're asking for.

    January 31, 2010 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  15. olin price

    Both Bush and Obama admiistrations have wanted to try some in military tribunals and some in domestic courts. Keep it simple try them all at GITMO in special military tribunals. Liberals are like republicans 'holier than thou" on this issue. It is a non issue that has been given legs by the unsavory actions of the defense lawyers for these gentlemen.

    January 31, 2010 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  16. Sid B

    Repubs will never want to work with Obama, sadly to say. They are united in their opposition to anything that Obama wish for the good of this country. ARE THESE THE PEOPLE WE WANT IT POWER ?? THESE SCREW-UP KINGS AND QUEENS !!!

    January 31, 2010 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  17. Michael

    Every time I see this guy it amazes me that he is even a Senator. How did that ever happen? Don't get me wrong, there a quite a few of them in both parties that make me feel the same way but this guy takes the cake.

    January 31, 2010 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  18. amused

    "That was a mistake by the previous administration. The other mistake they made ..."

    HAH ... so those were the only mistakes, were they?

    January 31, 2010 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  19. George

    You can also add to that the economy , tax cuts, the invasion of Iraq, wiretapping, trade with China and India and proclaiming victory in the 2000 election

    January 31, 2010 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  20. Al in Chesapeake

    Some of you arm chair lawyers should go read up on the laws and
    the Geneva Convention treaty. It is easy to spout falsehoods on the internet.

    January 31, 2010 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  21. Annie, Atlanta

    If McConnell felt so strongly about it, why wasn't he out bashing Bush at the time? Stop the hypocrisy, GOP. It isn't doing our country any good. You may win a few elections, you may even take back the House in November, but you still aren't doing our country any good. You're terrorizing it, using fear and No.

    All you do is bash the Democrats and say no, even to legislation funding the troops. Stop the game. Our lives and our country are at stake here. Stop the Games, for God's sake! For those of us actually paying attention, we've had enough. What are you doing? And why? To win elections? You'd destroy us to win elections?

    January 31, 2010 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  22. mcflightsuit

    His timing is questionable; he had 8 years to raise this point. Not buyin' it.

    January 31, 2010 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  23. Friedman

    Mitch McConnell ... now that yo are on the roll ... where else did you Republicans screw up ? Let's hear it directly from the horse's ars ! We never heard one word from you when King Bubja was at the helm and held all of you creeps under his thumb and told you to accept what he and Viceroy Dick had come up with next ! Come on – have the guts and say it – get it off your chest !

    January 31, 2010 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  24. Joe Price

    Looking forward to the day Kentucky gets McConnell out of the Senate. As a Louisvillian, I'm proud to say I've voted against him at every opportunity.

    January 31, 2010 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  25. Aubrey

    We are a country that prides in being about "liberty and justice for all" (I know that's the pledge of allegiance and not the Constitution, but work with me here). The best way to combat terrorism is to prove that we are willing to be fair even to people who may have wronged us in the past. We should treat all people suspected of crimes in a fair manner, which means that alleged terrorists should be given the right to a regular trial. If we don't, we are no better than them, and we will have lost this "war" on terrorism.

    January 31, 2010 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
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