POLITICS

Conyers On Prosecuting Bush Team: "Stay Tuned"

02/09/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Rep. John Conyers, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is still invested in prosecuting members of the Bush administration once they leave office.

In an interview on the "Bill Press Show" Friday, the Michigan Democrat floated the notion that the Bush team's illegal wiretapping, torture, detention, and other practices could land some members in an international tribunal.

"I don't want to get too speculative on that, because it's still under review," said Conyers on the radio show. "Now, remember, violation of the federal criminal code doesn't end because you leave office. If a crime has been committed and there seems to be reasonable evidence that it did get committed, there's nothing for a person to be prosecuted... Leaving office doesn't free you up from what you may have done wrong ... Anyone that leaves office, including [the] President ... there's the World Court ... They have tribunals ... This thing is not over with. As they say: Stay tuned."

Conyer has made similar proclamations before. The feisty, long-serving Democrat advocated impeaching Bush but was dissuaded from the notion by Democratic leadership.

Nevertheless, his comments touch a sensitive nerve for many progressives. What, exactly, should the incoming administration do to right the wrongs of the Bush years?

Both Conyers and Barack Obama have insisted that any unconstitutional act will be reversed in the early years of the forthcoming administration. But Obama has walked far more lightly on the topic of holding Bush and his team legally accountable for their policies. In an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News during the heat of the Democratic primary, he said he would ask his new Attorney General to "immediately review the information that's already there" and determine if an inquiry is warranted.

But, as reporter Will Bunch noted, "he also tread carefully on the issue, in line with his reputation for seeking to bridge the partisan divide. He worried that such a probe could be spun as 'a partisan witch hunt.' However, he said that equation changes if there was willful criminality, because 'nobody is above the law.'"

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