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MoveOn, Color Of Change Demand Obama To Investigate Wall Street Banks, Housing Crisis

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With big banks inching closer to a settlement over allegedly improper foreclosures -- one that critics call too lenient -- progressive groups are calling on President Obama to get tougher on Wall Street.

In a press release, Move On, Color of Change and other groups ask Obama to launch a "full federal investigation of Wall Street banks and their role in the housing crisis."

The groups have gathered more than 360,000 signatures which they will present to the Obama administration, according to the release.

"Our members understand that an investigation is essential for real accountability and preventing future reckless behavior from the banking and mortgage industries," Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorOfChange.org, said in the release. "The Obama administration has a critical choice to make. The President can either cut a deal that lets Wall Street off the hook, or he can commit to a full investigation into the banks and the damage they've caused."

The calls comes months after The New York Times reported that members of the Obama administration were pressuring New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to go along with the multi-billion dollar settlement. But Schneiderman and a handful of other state attorney generals have criticized the deal for being too lenient on the banks.

For his part, Obama hasn't show much interest in a more sweeping probe into the financial crisis. Last month, Obama told "60 Minutes" that "some of the most damaging behavior on Wall Street -- in some cases some of the least ethical behavior on Wall Street -- wasn't illegal."

Obama also said he couldn't comment on particular prosecutions because "That's the job of the Justice Department, and we keep those separate so that there's no political influence on decisions made by professional prosecutors."

But Salon's Glenn Greenwald pointed out that, shortly after he took office, Obama publicly expressed his belief that the Justice Department should not prosecute members of the Bush administration for torture or other possible criminal activities.

From Greenwald:

Does this sound like a President who actually believes that it's improper for him to "comment on the decisions about particular prosecutions" to ensure "there's no political influence on decisions made by professional prosecutors"? Or does this sound like a President who applies exactly that kind of political pressure on the DOJ when it suits him, and is now cynically invoking this excuse to avoid having to take responsibility for the virtually full-scale immunity given to the financial-crisis-causing Wall Street criminals under his watch?

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Filed by Simon McCormack