Who Caved?

Via TPM….

It may be time to coin the phrase “pulling a Specter,” because Sen. Arlen Specter (PA), the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, just did it again. After making a huge fuss questioning the independence of Eric Holder, Specter just caved and said he’ll support the attorney general nominee.

“I can say with some confidence that there won’t be a successful filibuster,” Specter told reporters at a press conference gathered to share his thoughts on Holder in advance of tomorrow’s Judiciary panel vote on the nominee.

Specter added that the strong recommendations Holder received from former FBI director Louis Freeh and former DoJ No. 2 James Comey were influential in swaying his vote.

“At no time did I challenge Mr. Holder’s integrity,” the Pennsylvania senator concluded. (But he sure came close, according to Holder himself.) “It was a question of judgment.”

Speaking of judgment, Holder also has resolved — to Specter’s satisfaction, at least — the GOP demand that he promise not to prosecute Bush administration intelligence officials who engaged in brutal interrogations at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.

“The gist of” Holder’s stance on the issue, Specter told me, “is that if you have an authoritative legal opinion, that’s a defense in terms of mens rea, of intent. That’s a broad generalization. I don’t think you can go any further than that until you examine the specific facts of a case.”

Let us HOPE it was Spectre…


Skip to comment form

  1. over at TPM?

    On the question of whether we’ll get to the bottom of the Bush White House’s role in the US Attorney firings, it’s starting to look more and more like the ball is squarely in President Obama’s court…

    And just now, Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, told TPMmuckraker that he had already forwarded Conyers’ subpoena to the Obama White House, asking them to give an opinion as to whether President Bush retains his ability to assert executive privilege.

    In other words, the Obama White House will decide, essentially, whether to back Rove’s claim of privilege, or to deny it. (And given that Rove is supposed to appear February 2, that decision from the White House should come soon.)

    That little Rove boy is thinking he’s up to his old tricks again. I’d say he better cushion his head for a big fall.  

  2. is reporting is something I’ve read elsewhere from one of the people who Obama appointed to the OLC – that the legal opinions would nullify the establishment of intent. But I can’t find where that was right now.

    I think this might be one of the shortcomings of taking a purely legal approach. It wouldn’t be the first time that someone with money and power used legal technicalities to get away with a crime. Its been happening for centuries.

  3. “The gist of” Holder’s stance on the issue, Specter told me, “is that if you have an authoritative legal opinion, that’s a defense in terms of mens rea, of intent. That’s a broad generalization. I don’t think you can go any further than that until you examine the specific facts of a case.


    Holder was very clever. He used a lot of the same phrasing that Gonzales did, and Specter (or whoever Specter is afraid of) fell for it.

    But, you see… Holder CAN examine the specific facts of the case. It all depends on whether he wants to. ;-7

  4. last Thursday.  I’m sure he did everything to put the screws to Holder, probably, using the Rich pardon as reason enough not to confirm him — who knows!

    I ahve been checking around:

    Here are some tidbits from various news sources:

    New York Times:

    The Caucus

    The New York Times Politcal Blog

    January 27, 2009, 4:35 pm

    Specter Says He Will Back Holder

    By Neil A. Lewis

    . . . .

    He also noted that in a private meeting last Thursday, Mr. Holder suggested that he believed that people who relied on a legal opinion during the Bush administration to justify their participation in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists would generally be safe from prosecution.

    Mr. Specter’s support should ensure that Mr. Holder will easily win approval by the committee and the full Senate which is likely to vote by the end of the week.

    The Atlantic:

    (There’s a lot of conversation about Marc Rich)

    marc Ambinder

    A Reported Blog on Politics

    Specter To Support Holder

    27 Jan 2009 05:05 pm

    . . . .

    “I think that Mr. Holder is entitled to the benefit of the doubt in the context of the excellent record that he has and those recommendations weighed against the issues which were of concern to me.

    “Beyond the hearings I had a lengthy meeting with Mr. Holder last Thursday where I was able to discuss quite a number of issues with him.  Having an informal meeting has both plusses and minuses.  It’s a plus in the sense that you can say some things and get some responses of a more candid nature without being in front of the television cameras.  And the disadvantage is that it is not on the record for other people to read and see.  But it’s a customary thing to have the informal sessions. . . . .


    Holder Gets Support From Top Republican on Judiciary (Update1)

    By James Rowley

    Jan. 27 (Bloomberg) — Eric Holder’s nomination to be U.S. attorney general received a boost when his confirmation was endorsed by Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. . . .

    Several Republicans on the panel have voiced concern that Holder might prosecute U.S. intelligence agents for using harsh interrogation tactics to question suspected al-Qaeda operatives.

    Holder testified that waterboarding, a technique used to simulate drowning, amounted to torture. The CIA has said it waterboarded several al-Qaeda operatives, which was authorized by a Justice Department legal opinion.

    Specter said Holder gave a “satisfactory answer” that “an authoritative legal opinion” from the Justice Department “is a defense” to allegations that an intelligence agent abused a suspected terrorist during interrogations.

    Further, Specter said Obama “has the right approach when he said that it’s preferable not to look backwards but to look forward” because “if every administration started to reexamine what every prior administration did, there’d be no end to it. This is not Latin America.”


    Political Ticker

    January 27, 2009

    Specter will support Holder

    Posted: 04:30 PM ET

    . . . .

    Specter questioned whether Holder would be politically independent from the White House, recalling Holder’s refusal as deputy attorney general to seek an independent counsel for an investigation of allegedly questionable fund-raising by then-Vice President Al Gore.

    A clearly annoyed Holder then warned Specter he was “getting close to the line in questioning my integrity.”

    It was the only heated exchange during a long day of testimony. Specter had also been particularly aggressive in challenging Holder’s account of his role in the pardon of fugitive Marc Rich by President Bill Clinton.

    And Specter, who later met with Holder privately, says he is satisfied on yet another point – that Holder is not intent on prosecuting Bush-era officials who were operating under what they presumed to be a lawful order when they engaged in harsh interrogation techniques.

    “After considerable thought and analyzing a lot of factors I’ve decided to vote in favor of the confirmation of Mr. Holder,” Specter told reporters. . . .

    The BLT – The Blog of Legal Times:

    January 27, 2009

    Specter Says He Will Vote for Holder

    By David Ingram

    Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) today pledged to support Attorney General nominee Eric Holder Jr., saying that the Covington & Burling partner’s record and broad support within the law enforcement community alleviated his concerns about Holder’s independence. The ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee also said he was satisfied that Holder would tread carefully in deciding whether to prosecute Bush administration officials involved in the use of harsh interrogation techniques on suspected al-Qaida members.

    Specter’s endorsement means Holder now has the support of his most vocal critic throughout the confirmation process. “I think that Mr. Holder is entitled to the benefit of the doubt, in the context of the excellent record that he has and those recommendations weighed against the issues that were of concern to me,” Specter said. . . .

    Last Thursday, Holder met with Specter briefly in the senator’s office, and later in his Capitol hideaway. Specter said he and Holder discussed the interrogation issue and the possibility of prosecutions related to the CIA program.

    “I got a satisfactory answer. The gist of it is that if you have an authoritative legal opinion, that that is a defense in terms of mens rea or in terms of intent. That’s a very broad generalization, and I don’t think you can go any further than that until you examine the specific facts of the case and then the conduct is determinative,” Specter said.

    He went on, “You may have an opinion which allows an interrogator to go so far and perhaps the conduct vastly exceeds that, so that it wouldn’t be reasonable to think that was comprehended within the opinion. But I think you had a Department of Justice memorandum in 2002 which was in effect for a time and then later repudiated, so that it’s really going to be fact-specific.” . . .

    I scanned over a number of other news sources, but they made no mention as to possible prosecution of Bush officials.  

    Although, as we know, the New York Times, CNN are slanted, anyway, the tenor of these statements, as made by Arlen Spector, as perceptions of Holder’s words, during a private meeting, I don’t like the sound of most of it at all.

  5. Using Specter’s logic, Hitler can have a licensed lawyer draft a memo saying that it is legal to exterminate the Jews and everyone else who isn’t a right wing Christian and thus Hitler, if alive, could never be prosecuted for it.

    While the example is hyperbole, the analogy and logic here is not.  John Yoo and others were “following orders.”  The mere fact that put the title “Legal Memorandum” behind it is no excuse.

Comments have been disabled.