See Rachel Maddow's interview with Michael Isikoff here: INTERVIEW VIDEO
MSNBC The Rachel Maddow Show - May 20, 2009: **BREAKING NEWS**- On The Rachel Maddow Show, Michael Isikoff reports an off-the-record secret meeting at the White House today with Obama and AG Eric Holder and human rights activists. Obama announced, emphatically, "There will be NO prosecutions of anyone in the Bush administration" and "No 9/11-type commission either."
MADDOW: "Tonight on the eve of that speech we have information exclusive to this show to report about an off-the-record meeting that happened today between President Obama and leading human rights and civil liberties groups at the White House. Although the meeting was off-the-record, we can report that the President was told by a member of one of those groups that he is alllowing President Bush's policies to become his own. We can report that President was demonstrably not pleased with that characterization."
INTERVIEW with Newsweek's Michael Isikoff who is the source of this reporting:
ISIKOFF: "He started out the meeting by complaining at one point about the mess he had been left by his predecessor, and when some of these ... human rights groups raised this he was quite clear he didn't like it, it wasn't helpful to equate me with President Bush."
MADDOW: "Let's take a specific example, one of the specific issues, the subject of torture prosecutions, the possibility of maybe a truth commission, or a commission of inquiry of some kind on to the issue of torture. Your sources are telling you that the President remained firmly against pursuing any of those things at this meeting today. But is there any sense of what his arguments are to defend that sense, or is it still just this generic assertion that we need to look forward and not look back?"
ISIKOFF: "The President had a somewhat different explanation for his resistance for that. He talked about all the Congressional investigations going on, the litigation going on, and said it was too distracting to his staff, that too much time was being taken up. He actually looked directly at Attorney General Holder who was present at the meeting and indicated that Holder was having to spend too much time on this issue. Now some of those present have made the point that that's the reason to have a 9/11-style commission - instead of having many Congressional investigations, have one Presidentially-backed commission with subpoena power that can do all this. And the President didn't necessarily reject that, he but raised this issue of a distraction, too much time."
"Then after that one of those present raised the idea of A criminal prosecution, even one criminal prosecution as a symbol, sort of, a trophy, I think the word was used, to show that such conduct, for torture, would not be tolerated again. And the President sort of curtly dismissed the idea, made it clear he had no interest in that. What was interesting about that is his attorney general, again Eric Holder, sat there silently and didn't say a word. The President could have said..."
MADDOW: "Right. That's..."
ISIKOFF: "The President could have said that's Eric Holder's decision to make, but he didn't. He seemed to cut it off."
MADDOW: "That's exactly what I was going to interject to say. That seems like the biggest news here. If the President has publicly said 'listen, this is up to the attorney general to decide whether or not it is appropriate or not to pursue criminal investigations and prosecutions. This is not a political matter. This is a law enforcement matter and the Justice Department does not work for the President, it works to enforce the laws of the United States.' And then he is meeting with people who are advocating investigations and prosecutions and answering on behalf of his attorney general, that's news, because that would imply that what he is saying in public and what he is saying behind the scenes are not at all the same thing."