In an interview with Rachel Maddow ...House Speaker Nancy Pelosi repeatedly advocated the need for criminal prosecutions, not merely fact-finding. She even directly criticized the proposal by Sen. Pat Leahy for a "Truth Commission," on the ground that such a Commission would improperly immunize lawbreakers and thus foreclose prosecutions:MADDOW: This is something that liberals have really been pushing. And you have stated your support for John Conyers convening an investigation into potential lawbreaking in the Bush administration. PELOSI: Absolutely. MADDOW: You've been outspoken about contempt of Congress charges related to the politicization of the Justice Department and that investigation. You have been less specific about how Congress should proceed on warrantless wiretapping and torture. Why is that? . . . PELOSI: Senator Leahy has a proposal, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is a good idea. What I have some concern about though is it has immunity. And I think that some of the issues involved here, like the services part, politicizing of the Justice Department, and the rest, they have criminal ramifications, and I don't think we should be giving them immunity.Pelosi then acknowledged that the FISA bill passed by Congress in 2008 was flawed in many important respects, but said that the "part of the bill that was positive" was the requirement that the Justice Department's Inspector General investigate the NSA eavesdropping program and issue a report (due this Summer) as to the scope and legality of Bush's eavesdropping. About that comment, Maddow asked Pelosi whether she would favor criminal prosecutions if, as many people expect, the IG Report concludes that the warrantless eavesdropping was illegal:MADDOW: Then in terms of your report, if the inspector general report that comes out this summer suggests that there has been criminal activity at the official level on issues like torture, or wireless wiretapping, or rendition, or any of these other issues... PELOSI: No one is above the law. I think I have said that. MADDOW: ... you support a call for a criminal investigation, potential investigation. PELOSI: Absolutely.That's pretty definitive. Maddow then repeatedly, and rather relentlessly, asked Pelosi about how much she was told about the Bush's use of torture and about the warrantless eavesdropping program and whether her having known about those programs was an obstacle to investigations and prosecutions. Pelosi's answers were largely evasive, but she was very emphatic -- I believe for the first time -- in claiming that while she was told by the CIA about potential "enhanced interrogation techniques" in "the abstract," she was never told that these techniques were actually being used. She also claimed that she put up "very strong resistance" to the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program (I've never seen any evidence of such resistance at all; the only letter from Pelosi that was disclosed was one from October, 2001, which merely raised a concern over whether the NSA had presidential authorization for the program, not whether the program itself was illegal). But what matters here is that Pelosi insists that nothing she nor any other Democrat knew or did poses an obstacle in any way to full-scale criminal investigations.
By Susie Madrak — February 26, 2009