A leading Democratic lawmaker called Tuesday for federal appeals court judge Jay Bybee to resign over his part in giving legal backing to Bush-era interrogation tactics widely seen as torture.
"The decent and honorable thing for him to do would be to resign. If he is a decent and honorable person he will resign," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy told reporters.
Leahy's comments came after US President Barack Obama left the door open to prosecuting Bush-era officials who authorized harsh questioning of terrorism suspects in a series of memos made public last week.
Republicans angrily opposed any such move and highlighted comments by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel on Sunday that seemed to rule out prosecuting the lawyers who drew up legal justifications for the controversial tactics.
"What happened to him talking about not looking backward, about looking forward?" said Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada.
"I think it's a huge mistake," said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.
"If we start criminalizing legal advice given to a past president advice you may disagree with, that's on the margins of legal thought in your opinion, you've really harmed the presidency," he told reporters.
"I disagree with their analysis, but I don't think you should go to jail because I disagree with you -- that would be the most chilling thing I could imagine in terms of harming the free flow of information and thought to the office of the president," said Graham.
"There will be no points gained with the public and it will hurt the institution," said the senator.
Republicans also highlighted Emanuel's pledge that Obama believed that "those who devised policy, he believes that they were -- should not be prosecuted either, and that's not the place that we go."
"It's time for reflection. It's not a time to use our energy and our time in looking back and any sense of anger and retribution," Emanuel said.
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