Under heavy fire from the political left for appearing to oppose prosecution for Bush officials involved in authorizing torture, President Obama on Tuesday clarified his position. He still doesn’t support prosecuting Central Intelligence Agency officials who carried out orders. But the Bush Department of Justice lawyers and policy makers? Their fate is a decision for Attorney General Eric Holder, Obama said in response to questions from reporters.
With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the parameters of various laws, and I don’t want to prejudge that. … I think that there are a host of very complicated issues involved there.
Obama took questions after a meeting at the White House with Jordan’s King Abdullah.
The president’s remarks seemed to contradict White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who told ABC on Sunday the administration didn’t support prosecution of the lawyers and policy makers. “Those who devised the policy, he believes that they were, should not be prosecuted either,” Emanuel said. He added now is not a “time for retribution.” But the New York Times said White House aides later clarified Emanuel’s remarks.
Wrote the Times:
But administration officials said Monday that Mr. Emanuel had meant the officials who ordered the policies carried out, not the lawyers who provided the legal rationale.
The DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility has been working on a report said to be sharply critical of the Bush DOJ lawyers who authored the torture memos: John Yoo, now a law professor at Berkeley, Steven Bradbury and Jay Bybee, now a federal appeals court judge.