Advisers Pressed On Memo Fallout

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 27, 2009

White House officials yesterday confronted more questions about President Obama's position on prosecution of former Bush lawyers who drafted memos legalizing harsh interrogation methods used on terrorism suspects.

In appearances on Sunday morning talk shows, Obama advisers sought to portray the president as constitutionally removed from the question of whether anyone should be prosecuted for breaking the law.

"What he has said is that anyone who followed the advice of the Justice Department and did any kind of acts that were within the confines of that advice, he doesn't think we should prosecute," adviser Valerie Jarrett said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"The rest of it," she added, "he leaves up to the U.S. attorney general. That is who is supposed to make decisions about prosecution.

"So I think the president has been very clear, and what he said is, we need to be a nation of laws, we need to be consistent, and he leaves it to the attorney general to figure out who should be prosecuted for what."

Press secretary Robert Gibbs used the same argument on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"The president doesn't open or close the door on criminal prosecutions of anybody in this country because the legal determination about who knowingly breaks the law in any instance is not one that's made by the president of the United States," Gibbs said.

The administration's defense came as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Obama's adversary in the 2008 presidential contest and a victim of torture during the Vietnam War, urged the White House not to pursue prosecutions.

"Maybe there's an element of settling old political scores here," McCain said on CBS's "Face the Nation" program. "We need to put this behind us, we need to move forward."

And other Republicans continued to vent their anger over the release of the memos, saying that Obama has made the country less safe and made it more difficult for U.S. troops.

Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.) said on "Fox News Sunday" that any prosecution would be a "stab in the back" to the CIA.

"And what's worse, now the terrorists know that nothing can be done to them that wasn't done to our voluntary military enlistees in the Marines, the SEALs and pilots who went through these same techniques, and that is -- has absolutely destroyed our ability to get further information from terrorists," Bond said.

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