Leading Senate Dems Dismiss Report That Holder Promised No Torture Prosecutions

The Washington Times reported today that Attorney General nominee Eric Holder has privately assured Sen. Kit Bond (MO) and other Republicans that the Obama DoJ will not prosecute intelligence officials who engaged in harsh interrogations.

A Bond aide told the Times that the senator “strongly considered blocking the nomination based on questions arising from some of Mr. Holder’s public statements,” but that Bond now planned to support the nomination after “having received assurances that [Holder] was not intent on going after intelligence officials who acted in good faith.”

The implication of the piece is fairly clear: Holder promised Bond to eschew prosecutions, and Bond promised not to block his nomination. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Judiciary Committee — which approved Holder today — strongly denied that such an exchange could have occurred.“It would be completely wrong if a senator said, ‘I’ll vote for you if you promise to withhold prosecution of a crime’,” Leahy told me. “No senator would make a request like that. It’d be improper.”

“Maybe Governor [Rod] Blagojevich [D-IL]” would have sought such an assurance, Leahy quipped. He never specifically referenced Bond, who declined to answer questions about the Times piece while leaving the Senate chamber this afternoon.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a Judiciary panel member and former federal prosecutor, had a similar response when questioned about the likelihood of Holder making the “assurances” that Bond believes were offered.

“It sounds a little improbable … it’s, frankly, improper for members of Congress to demand [a pre-determinative stance on] prosecutions.”

Sounds like the Times report should be taken with a full shaker of salt.

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