Chris Matthews Wonders What Jonathan Turley's Motives Are

You would think that Chris Matthews would know something about Jonathan Turley, since he's been on MSNBC for years and has openly spoken about the Bus

You would think that Chris Matthews would know something about Jonathan Turley, since he's been on MSNBC for years and has openly spoken about the Bush administration and torture, and has consistently said that waterboarding is a war crime and should be prosecuted.

The key exchange:

TURLEY: You know, Chris, the thing that disturbs me most, the thing that I think is most grotesque, is not the thought of prosecuting high-ranking officials, it's that high-ranking officials ordered war crimes. And if we need to prosecute it to show the world that we are not hypocrites...

MATTHEWS: When did you first say that?

TURLEY: When did I first say that we should prosecute?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TURLEY: Back in the Bush administration.

MATTHEWS: And why—I remember that. Why did the—why do you think there was no call within the legal community to do what you‘re saying right now? Why was this country so relatively silent? You were out there alone. Why was this country so silent on the possibility that war crimes were being committed in this country for eight years?

TURLEY: Well, unfortunately, that was part of the distortive effect after 9/11. And quite frankly, we lost our bearings. And this really shows how dangerous torture can be. When you hate someone enough or you‘re afraid enough...

MATTHEWS: OK, so what you think is possible here...

TURLEY: ... that you can violate the law.

Transcript below the fold:

MATTHEWS: OK, Suppose we had Ramsey Clark as attorney general right now, a real flaming lib, who really wanted to get to the bottom of this and really wanted to hang some people high. What crimes in the U.S. code could he try people for?

TURLEY: Well, there‘s no question—there‘s no one has debated that it‘s a crime under the United States code, 18 USC code, to commit torture. Nobody‘s debating that. And more importantly, we‘re obligated in this country under article 7 of the Convention Against Torture, for example, to submit these cases for prosecution. Indeed, recently a U.N. official said that we‘re probably in violation now because we helped write that treaty, and it obligates countries to investigate and prosecute.

So we‘re not supposed to be like Serbia, where we say, Look, this just isn‘t a good time for us to investigate torture. It‘s an inconvenient thing. It‘s going to be divisive. None of that matters. Under the treaties that we helped write, a country is morally and legally obligated...

MATTHEWS: Well, how come the Bush administration never prosecuted anybody?

TURLEY: Because they were violating the law. It‘s not too surprising that the people...

MATTHEWS: You mean they‘re all guilty.

TURLEY: Well, it‘s not too surprising that the people that ordered a war crime didn‘t take these treaties very seriously.

MATTHEWS: Patrick Buchanan?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think what‘s going to happen

the commission is dead, but I don‘t think the president—this is up to Holder. This isn‘t up to the president of the United States whether you appoint an independent counsel.

I think what‘s coming, Chris, is the liberal wing in Congress will go all out and have a committee investigation. They will conclude that war crimes, torture was committed, war crimes, maybe people perjured themselves, and they will send this down to the Department of Justice. And at that point, you‘re liable to get enough heat on Holder that he‘s either going to have to sit on this and say, I‘m not going to do it, why, (ph) if, as is true, these laws have been violated, or he appoints an independent counsel. And frankly, I don‘t know how Barack Obama says, Don‘t prosecute him, and then prosecute him...

MATTHEWS: OK, what is the precedent for a United States prosecution of torture? Is there any...

(CROSSTALK)

TURLEY: We helped create it. We prosecuted...

MATTHEWS: ... hear your history (INAUDIBLE)

TURLEY: Yes, as long as they weren‘t Americans. We prosecuted people after World War II for waterboarding, not just for torture, for this specific form of torture. The U.S. Senate led the fight to prosecute a U.S. commander...

MATTHEWS: You think this is...

TURLEY: ... in the Philippines.

MATTHEWS: I know. You have a point of view, and I appreciate that. That‘s why I want you here. But do you believe this is plausible, that Eric Holder, who‘s center-left—he‘s not very far over—will do this?

TURLEY: Well, I think it is plausible, if he fulfills his oath. He‘s obligated to do this. This is insurmountable evidence...

MATTHEWS: You want him to do this?

TURLEY: ... of a war crime. Of course I do because it‘s important for this country to keep its word.

MATTHEWS: You want to see prosecution of people all the way up to Gonzales, all the way up to the vice president, to the president? How high would you go?

TURLEY: Well, you know...

MATTHEWS: Because you know they‘ve signed off on this. We all know that.

TURLEY: You know, Chris, the thing that disturbs me most, the thing that I think is most grotesque, is not the thought of prosecuting high-ranking officials, it‘s that high-ranking officials ordered war crimes. And if we need to prosecute it to show the world that we are not hypocrites...

MATTHEWS: When did you first say that?

TURLEY: When did I first say that we should prosecute?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TURLEY: Back in the Bush administration.

MATTHEWS: And why—I remember that. Why did the—why do you think there was no call within the legal community to do what you‘re saying right now? Why was this country so relatively silent? You were out there alone. Why was this country so silent on the possibility that war crimes were being committed in this country for eight years?

TURLEY: Well, unfortunately, that was part of the distortive effect after 9/11. And quite frankly, we lost our bearings. And this really shows how dangerous torture can be. When you hate someone enough or you‘re afraid enough...

MATTHEWS: OK, so what you think is possible here...

TURLEY: ... that you can violate the law.

MATTHEWS: Pat, what he‘s saying...

BUCHANAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... is that there was a cabal.

BUCHANAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: The president, the vice president, his attorneys general, all the people working for him, all the—Addington, the vice president‘s people...

BUCHANAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... all those people agreed without any dissension, including Condi and the rest of them...

BUCHANAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... this was the right thing to do, torture these guys, and call it something else.

BUCHANAN: I don‘t—look, Chris, we know the facts. They made a decision to use enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, on certain individuals of al Qaeda to get information. They got the legal opinions on that. They went to the Security Council. People gave Bush various kinds of advice. The decider decided.

If you‘re going to investigate war crimes, quite frankly, you can‘t go after the CIA that just did it. You immunize them. You go up the line to the lawyers, and then you go in and get the people who decided.

MATTHEWS: What do you think of this?

BUCHANAN: I think it would be terrible for the country. And frankly, I believe if Barack Obama, if he had to do it, would—I think he‘s going to have to give a pardon, quite frankly, to the people who did it. Here‘s what‘s going to happen...

MATTHEWS: Can he do it without naming names? Can he just say, I pardon...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... because Bush won‘t accept a pardon.

BUCHANAN: Let‘s see the...

MATTHEWS: Cheney won‘t accept a pardon.

BUCHANAN: Nothing is going to happen...

MATTHEWS: Will they?

BUCHANAN: ... Chris—nothing is going to happen unless and until you get a congressional committee that brings these people up, gets names and sends this down to the Department of Justice. At that point, it is Holder‘s decision. And the president could say, Don‘t appoint a counsel or I‘ll fire you...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s look at Senator McCain. I trust him on this. He‘s been tortured. He has very strong credibility on this. We‘re going to commend him on it later. Here he is talking about the possibility of prosecutions in this regard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: In banana republics, they prosecute people for actions they didn‘t agree with under previous administrations. We‘ve got Bagram issues. We‘ve got what we do with the Guantanamo Bay attorneys. We‘ve got a whole array of problems associated with detainees. And to go back on a witch hunt that could last for a year or so, frankly, is going to be bad for the country, bad for future presidents.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, is this—what are we looking at as a precedent? We don‘t have a precedent for this in our own country.

TURLEY: Well, first of all, I‘m not too sure what the senator means. A banana republic is a country that allows its leaders to commit crimes and doesn‘t prosecute them. It‘s a country that doesn‘t subscribe to the rule of law.

MATTHEWS: No, it‘s a country in which, if you lose an election or you get overthrown by a coup, you get your ass out of that country fast because the guy that just got in there‘s going to kill you.

TURLEY: No, the...

MATTHEWS: That‘s what he‘s talking about.

TURLEY: What happens is the test of the character of a nation is whether it‘s willing...

MATTHEWS: He‘s saying that there‘s political retribution in third world countries against anybody that‘s been thrown out of power.

TURLEY: It‘s not retribution to enforce the laws.

(CROSSTALK)

TURLEY: That‘s the definition of a nation that is committed to the rule of law.

BUCHANAN: You got the Fujimori case...

MATTHEWS: You don‘t accept what he just said.

TURLEY: Absolutely not.

BUCHANAN: You got Fujimori down in Peru, who‘s just been prosecuted and convicted for what he did done in office. McCain is right about what is...

MATTHEWS: But Fujimori is probably guilty.

BUCHANAN: Well, he was convicted. Obviously, he‘s guilty. But let me tell you, I think the...

TURLEY: So what‘s the problem?

BUCHANAN: From the standpoint of the nation, you will rip this country apart! Barack Obama won. The decisions Bush had taken were rejected, basically, you can say by the administration. Barack said, No more of that, that‘s over and done with...

MATTHEWS: OK, here‘s Paul Krugman.

BUCHANAN: ... stop it.

MATTHEWS: Admittedly, this man has a strong point of view, but it is a point of view in this country which has some prevalence. The “New York Times” columnist Paul Krugman this morning, before we found out about these thousands of new pictures of abuse—“These investigations should, where appropriate, be followed by prosecutions, not out of vindictiveness but because this is a nation of laws. We need to do this for the sake of our future, for this isn‘t about looking backward. It‘s about looking forward because it‘s about reclaiming America‘s soul.”

BUCHANAN: The polls today show that the American people still support enhanced interrogation techniques if you‘re dealing with al Qaeda types and if you‘re trying to stop 9/11.

TURLEY: It doesn‘t matter whether a crime is popular.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: I‘m telling you it does matter whether you‘re going tear the country apart!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Are you using the lingo of this administration? You don‘t usually fall for other people‘s lingo. Do you believe these are “enhanced interrogation” techniques or they‘re torture?

BUCHANAN: I think—I think waterboarding...

MATTHEWS: Is waterboarding torture?

BUCHANAN: ... is arguably torture.

MATTHEWS: OK. All right.

BUCHANAN: I mean, I think, quite frankly...

MATTHEWS: Well, why are you using their lingo?

BUCHANAN: But look, because I think it arguably is. I‘m not certain it is because I would have done the same thing Bush did.

TURLEY: Oh, I‘m sorry to hear that, Pat. But I got to tell you, I have more faith in this country than you do. I don‘t think it‘s going to rip this country apart to enforce the law.

BUCHANAN: To prosecute...

TURLEY: This country is made of stronger stuff. And you know what?

Even if everyone‘s against this—and it will be unpopular for Obama.

He‘s going to take a hit. That‘s why he doesn‘t want to do it.

(CROSSTALK)

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