Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) reacted quickly and positively this morning to President Obama's comments yesterday about the possibility of a bi-partisan commission that would investigate the Bush Administration's torture policies.
Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, Sen. Leahy said: "I would prefer an overarching commission, non-partisan commission, to look at this and for the American people to know what happened, that would require support from both parties just to get it in there. The president who seemed lukewarm about it, yesterday in his comments seemed more agreeable to the idea and I will sit down and talk with him about it."
Sen. Leahy won't just need to convince the White House and Justice Department to go along with the idea of a Torture Commission. He'll need Republicans to make the Commission truly bipartisan. And for that he might need an initial pledge from the executive branch not to prosecute former Bush officials who authorized and drafted the memos. Wouldn't that cool the ardor of Congressional Republicans who worry about a "witch hunt"?
Sen. Leahy will also need to work with Republicans and the White House in coming up with bright, independent commission members—though there are plenty of solid candidates around. How about bringing back Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, at right, who did such stellar work on the 9/11 Commission? How about asking former senator John Warner to lend his vast experience? How about recruiting David Cole and Ruth Wedgewood and Scott Silliman from the world of academe? How about bringing in U.S. Attorney extraordinaire
Patrick Fitzgerald to handle the investigative component of the panel?
This may be one of those times where the details have to come before the deal.
Andrew Cohen is CBS News Chief Legal Analyst and Legal Editor.. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here.
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