Charlie Gibson

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From Newsweek

Dear Rahm: You Were Talking About What?

Remember that whole question of whether the White House flip flopped on prosecuting former Bush administration officials for those controversial CIA interrogation techniques? Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, initially said his boss didn’t want to prosecute former Bushies, only to be contradicted by Obama himself, who said it was up to Attorney General Eric Holder to weigh the legal merits. Well, ABC’s Charlie Gibson brought up the apparent contradiction in an interview with Emanuel today. His response: Emanuel says he was talking about "policy guidance." Huh? Here’s the excerpt:

GIBSON: You told George Stephanopoulos that the president did not believe those who devised the interrogation policy should be prosecuted. A day later, the president opened the door to that. What happened?

EMANUEL: I think that what was said is -- and I think it's clear. First of all, I can't strongly advocate enough that folks look at what the president said Thursday night -- Thursday day in his statement as it related to those techniques, his view of why he let those documents out, and his view that on an ongoing basis, where we need to focus our time and energy. One, it's important for the American people to know that we banned those techniques. Within, I think, the second or third day, he made that clear. Second, that a lot of this information has already been public. So therefore, it was appropriate to let it out. Let me just get to the point. Third, is that he operated within the four corners of what clearly the law, and with the intent to follow what was then the legal guidance. There would be no sense that you would be prosecuted. This building, the president, or anybody here, doesn't make any of the other decisions. That's for the Department of Justice. And that's the line that was drawn.

GIBSON: But George asked you specifically about whether or not those people who devised the techniques would be prosecuted.

EMANUEL: No, he asked me -- he said about the policy guidance, and that was the answer I gave to the policy guidance.

GIBSON: And he then followed up and asked specifically about those who devised the policies. And you said the president wants to go forward and...

EMANUEL: And that's what I'm saying here, Charlie.

GIBSON: And yet -- all right. I'll drop it, because I'm not going to get anywhere with it.

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