The reaction was strong to the President Obama's suggestion Tuesday that Bush administration officials might be subject to both prosecutions and a commission hearing stemming from their approval of harsh interrogation methods for detainees. Whether or not the president intended to set this dynamic into motion, Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill now seem headed for a collision on this contentious issue.
Attorney General Eric Holder today acknowledged that despite previous comments made by the current White House, it remained a possibility that Bush administration officials could be prosecuted for devising interrogation policies. —look what it’s done to image of the nation."
"We're going to follow the evidence wherever that takes us," Holder said. ""No one is above the law. So we will just see what happens."
Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vermont, isn't waiting. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee called for a non-partisan investigation like the 9/11 Commission to look into what happened with the Bush administration's detainee policy. But if there isn't support for that notion, Leahy said he'd be happy to have his committee do the job.
Referencing the memos President Obama released, Leahy said "opinions were written totally contrary to the law."
"How did they convince themselves and have lawyers who would write twisted, twisted memos to convince themselves that they didn't have to follow the law?" Leahy asked. "We had a certain cadre within the White House or within the administration, they could automatically excuse themselves from following the law."
"They were trying to steal the Constitution of the United States," Leahy said on the floor of the Senate, comparing what he believes the Bush administration did with some of the bankers who have recently been accused of stealing funds. " They're trying to steal the credibility of the United States and trying to steal the honor and morality of the United States."
But even Republicans who opposed the Bush administration on interrogation issues say Democrats should not go down this road.
"The legal advice given about torture statutes and criminal law, I disagree with," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, told ABC News. "Authorizing severe interrogation techniques at the end of the day does not make us safer even though some good information may have been gained from it
Graham said, "the lawyers in question were not conspiring to hurt a particular individual; they were trying to protect the nation at a time when we had just been attacked. Clearly their motivation was to provide tools to the executive branch, you know looking at the law in a very aggressive fashion, to protect us as a nation. So no, they shouldn’t be criminally prosecuted...We’ve done enough damage by authorizing techniques that make us look bad."
-- Jake Tapper and Jon Garcia, with Z. Byron Wolf at the Capitol and Jason Ryan and the Justice Department