Obama Tells Hill Leaders He Does Not Favor Probe Into Interrogation Techniques

Posted April 23, 2009 at 4:57pm

Updated: 7:06 p.m.

In a meeting Thursday with the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional leadership, President Barack Obama forcefully affirmed that he does not favor an investigation into Bush-era interrogation techniques, including a “truth commission— designed to probe the matter, according to Republican and White House sources.

Pressed on the matter by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), Obama asserted his view that the country must move forward, has too may important issues to deal with, and that a “backward-looking investigation would not be productive,— a White House official said.

“The president was very clear,— this White House official said.

Pelosi later in the meeting indicated that she wants to move ahead with a “truth commission— anyway. Sources said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), though not as emphatic as the president, nevertheless sided with him.

Boehner also pressed Obama to release further memos on the interrogation techniques that would show the methods helped prevent terrorist attacks, telling Obama that he appeared to be releasing memos that mainly confirmed his position that the techniques were not warranted.

A GOP source said Boehner came away from the meeting with the impression that Obama would consider the idea. A White House source acknowledged that Obama did not rule it out, but said the president’s response was more general, promising to do what’s best for national security and the country.

Meanwhile, despite calls from conservatives for the head of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Republican leaders attending the White House meeting did not ask President Barack Obama for her resignation, according to sources familiar with the session.

Conservatives took to the House floor Wednesday to insist on her departure following the release of a report that warned of dangers of terrorist attacks by right-wing extremists. Further enraging conservatives was a suggestion in the report that veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq could be enlisted to help carry out attacks.

Prior to the White House meeting, John Boehner was noncommittal about whether he would ask Obama for Napolitano’s resignation, but he said he was sure it would at least come up. Instead, neither the resignation nor the issues related to it were discussed.

One GOP source described the meeting as an intense affair covering a variety of topics, saying it might have included the Napolitano resignation and the report if it had gone on longer.

Among the other topics discussed during the session were reconciliation, Pakistan, health care and energy, according to one source.