CNN's John King on Thursday claimed Attorney General Eric Holder intentionally avoided Sen. Lindsey Graham's "stumping" question during the previous day's Senate Judiciary Committtee hearing because he didn't want to admit that trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other 9/11 suspects in a criminal courtroom is indeed precedent setting.
As NewsBusters reported Wednesday, Holder appeared stumped when Graham asked, "Can you give me a case in United States history where a enemy combatant caught on a battlefield was tried in civilian court?"
Speaking with WOR radio's Steve Malzberg Thursday, King said, "He knew the answer to the question. He just wasn't going to say it because...he did not want to be the one saying this is the first time we've ever done this" (15-minute audio available here, relevant section at 6:50, partial transcript follows along with embedded video of Graham-Holder exchange):
STEVE MALZBERG, HOST: I want you to comment on this. This was Eric Holder's testimony yesterday before the Senate Judiciary committee on, you know, moving the trials of the five skunks in my view including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to New York City. Now, Sen. Graham asked Eric Holder this. This was the Q&A. To me, this is, this is the huge headline. This is what he said about Osama bin Laden also possibly being tried in New York City if they catch him. But listen to this, cut, play the cut.
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R-S.C): Can you give me a case in United States history where a enemy combatant caught on a battlefield was tried in civilian court?
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't know. I'd have to look at that. I think that, you know, the determination I've made --
GRAHAM: We're making history here, Mr. Attorney General. I'll answer it for you. The answer is no.
HOLDER: Well, I think --
GRAHAM: The Ghailani case -- he was indicted for the Cole bombing before 9/11. And I didn't object to it going into federal court. But I'm telling you right now. We're making history and we're making bad history. And let me tell you why.
MALZBERG: How could the Attorney General of the United States, who said that he labored with this decision, and he went over the facts, and he studied, and he labored, and he took months, and he talked to people. How could he not know the first thing any two-bit lawyer would ask in making a decision or trying to make a decision, or advising on a decision, has this ever happened before? How could the Attorney General of the United States, first of all, six seconds of silence, and he couldn't, "I don't know, I'll have to get back to you?" How, that's question number one. And question number two is I reported on this, I did this all day yesterday. National Review, Andy McCarthy reported on this. Even NPR. But the networks, not one of them ran this sound bite. Not one of them pointed out that this is an incompetent Attorney General who couldn't answer a basic, basic question. What's your take on this?
JOHN KING, CNN: Well, let me do it in reverse order. I'll run it Sunday, there's my promise to you and we'll talk about it on "State of the Union." Here's my, I don't like to read minds. We've had this conversation in the past. But, here's my bet, 21 years Washington experience. He knew the answer to the question. He just wasn't going to say it because he did not want, he did not want to be the one saying this is the first time we've ever done this because that adds to the. Look, this is controversial. This is a big deal. This is a risk for the Administration, and it is a step that Sen. Graham and others, and Sen. Graham and listeners don't know that, is an accomplished military attorney. He still goes back in the Reserves and deals with this type of issues. Goes to Iraq and helps out over there. His point is, you know, this is why we created military justice systems. This is why it exists, when you scoop somebody off the battlefield, that is where they are tried. If you get scooped up on the streets of New York City, you are tried in New York City. Eric Holder did not want to wander down the path and add to the controversy about this. That would be my 99.9 percent bet on that one.
Here's the video of the Graham-Holder exchange:
Is King right? Is that why Holder refused to answer the question?
If King's right, why aren't more media members reaching such a conclusion and asking for Holder's elaboration on the matter?