Turley fears Dems will let alleged 'Bush crimes' stay buried forever
George W. Bush has been more sparing than most presidents in handing out pardons, but it is starting to seem that the conclusion of his term in office may be marked by a generous use of the pardon power to let members of his own administration off the hook. What's more, constitutional lawyer Jonathan Turley believes that the Democrats will let him get away with it.
"The Democrats are trying very hard to show ... that they're not going to re-open these issues and that the Bush crimes will remain buried for all time," Turley told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Tuesday. "It would start a new administration on the same level that George Bush left it. And that's a very sad thing."
Turley was particularly concerned about a recent statement by law professor Cass Sunstein, an Obama adviser, that only "egregious" crimes by Bush officials should be prosecuted by an Obama administration.
"We've had eight years of moral relativism and the avoidance of legal process," stated Turley. "And to start a major campaign with the suggestion that we're going to distinguish between egregious and non-egregious crimes promises more of the same."
"Did we just see accountability go out the window for good?" Olbermann asked Turley.
"That would probably wrap it up," Turley replied.
"There are very few obligations that a president has to do under the Constitution, but one of them is not to violate the laws that he is supposed to enforce," explained Turley. "And what really concerns me about Cass Sunstein's statement is that I don't know what a non-egregious crime by a president or by an administration might be. I think that all crimes committed by the government, particularly the president, are egregious."
Turley further pointed to Speaker Nancy Pelosi's refusal to initiate impeachment proceedings against the president, saying, "I don't understand why some Democrats can't just simply accept a very straightforward proposition, that we'll prosecute any crimes committed by this administration, an Obama administration, a McCain administration. Because they're crimes. They're all egregious."
Sunstein's remarks followed a story in last week's New York Times, which reported that "several members of the conservative legal community in Washington said in interviews that they hoped Mr. Bush would issue such [pre-emptive] pardons. ... They said people who carried out the presidentís orders should not be exposed even to the risk of an investigation and expensive legal bills."
Former Reagan Justice Department official Victoria Toensing -- recently best known for arguing that no crime was committed in the outing of former CIA officer Valerie Plame -- told the Times flatly, "The president should pre-empt any long-term investigations."
Turley noted that the Bush administration doesn't seem to care whether pre-emptive pardons would be an implicit admission of guilt. "I think this would be the ultimate and final show of contempt by this president for the rule of law," he concluded. "I think this president would find it very consistent to say, 'I can tell prople to commit crimes and then I can pardon them for it.' What is very troubling is that there appear to be Democrats on the other side who would welcome that."
This video is from MSNBC's News Live, broadcast July 22, 2008.