Pelosi: Bush Administration lawbreakers should face prosecution, not immunity
Not so fast.
Bush administration officials who broke the law should face criminal prosecution and shouldn't get immunity in exchange for testimony under a proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission being discussed in the Senate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in an interview broadcast late Wednesday.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) yesterday announced his committee will hold hearings on creating a panel to investigate alleged crimes committed by Bush administration officials, including torture of detainees and illegal wiretapping. Leahy has said the panel would avoid criminal charges except in cases of perjury.
Pelosi said she supported the investigation, but any plan should hold open the possibility of prosecution.
"Senator Leahy has a proposal, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is a good idea," Pelosi told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC Wednesday. "What I have some concern about there is it has immunity. And I think that some of the issues involved here, like the politicizing of the Justice Department and the rest, may have criminal ramifications, and I don't think we should be giving them immunity."
If a report by the Inspector General on warrantless wiretapping, expected to be released by summer, reveals crimes have been committed, Pelosi said criminal investigations should follow.
"I don't think we should have immunity for some of those issues," Pelosi said. "No one is above the law, the president has said that."
Plans to establish a congressional investigatory body remain in their infancy, as senators and staff look at previous panels, such as the 9-11 Commission, and investigations following Watergate. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a former U.S. attorney, told Salon's Mark Benjamin Wednesday that a torture commission might need the power to immunize witnesses on a case-by-case basis. The prospect of future prosecutions, he said, is beside the point. Most important was putting a spotlight on abuses committed by the Bush administration.
Pelosi's opposition to offering immunity for testimony "could block what might have been an emerging consensus in favor of a truth commission," Maddow said later in the program.
Leahy has suggested the investigatory panel could be modeled after a commission that probed apartheid in South Africa. The commission should have "subpoena power and witnesses would not face charges except if they commit perjury," The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.
President Barack Obama has vowed his administration won't torture terror suspects and said prosecutions should be brought in "clear instances of wrongdoing." But he has also said, "I'm more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backward."
This video is from MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Feb. 25, 2009.
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