Obama's Remarks on Possible Prosecution Please Democrats, Anger Republicans

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that the president would see the 9/11 Commission as a model of how an investigation into the torture memo matter should be carried out.

Obama is concerned that such an investigation "could become overly politicized," Gibbs said. On the 9/11 Commission, however, the members -- regardless of whether they were Democrats or Republicans "put their party identification away in order to answer some very serious questions," he said.

When the memos outlining legal justifications for harsh interrogation techniques were first released last week, the White House took the stance that no charges would be brought against those involved.

On "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said the president will not seek prosecution.

"He believes that people in good faith were operating with the guidance they were provided," Emanuel said. "Yeah, but those who devised the policy, he believes that they were, should not be prosecuted either, and that's not the place that we go."

Gibbs echoed that message Monday.

"The president does believe and the attorney general said quite clearly that those that believed in good faith that these techniques had been declared legal by the Department of Justice, should not be prosecuted," Gibbs said. "The president also believes that rather than looking backward and fighting this backward, that it's important to move our country forward."

What Obama said today contradicted those statements. The White House would not explain the change, saying that the president never contradicted himself and only repeated what he's been saying.

"No, I think the president, as I said, you can date back to the -- I think was asked, at least I recall it being asked in the transition -- and discussed the rule of law, that nobody in the country is above that rule of law," Gibbs said.

Democrats Content

Democrats on Capitol Hill, who had been pressuring the administration to leave the door open for prosecutions, welcomed the news.

"I was very pleased to hear that. I think that is the right thing," said Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. Feinstein said on CNN that she was not aware of the interrogation techniques.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., announced soon after Obama's remarks that the committee would hold hearings on the torture memos.

"Critical questions remain concerning how these memos came into existence and were approved, which our committee is uniquely situated to consider," Conyers said in a statement.

"The president's comments today on possible approaches to a fuller accounting of these matters are exactly right -- further comprehensive review of the Bush administration anti-terror policies will be most valuable and successful if done in a truly apolitical and bipartisan manner," he said.

Earlier this month, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., even raised the possibility of impeaching one of the authors of these memos, Jay Bybee, currently a federal judge.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., said Bybee would never have been confirmed had the Senate been aware of the content of the memos, adding that Bybee should resign.

There is an ongoing internal investigation into Bybee and two other authors of the torture memos, John Yoo and Steven Bradbury, within the DOJ.

GOP Anger

Republicans, on the other hand, were less than enthusiastic.

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