This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," August 2, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, who led the Marine squad accused of killing two dozen Iraqi citizens at Haditha filed a defamation lawsuit in federal court today. The suit names John Murtha and claims that defamation occurred when the Pennsylvania congressman made the following statements.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN MURTHA, D-PA.: There was no — there was no firefight. There was no IED that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them. And they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLMES: The Associated Press reporting today that evidence collected in the military probe supports accusations that the soldiers deliberately shot and killed unarmed Iraqi civilians, including women and children.
Joining us now is Wuterich's lawyer Mark Zaid.
Mark, welcome to our show. What's your reaction to what I just cited as the A.P. reporting the — confirming that the atrocities that Jack Murtha referred to?
MARK ZAID, ATTORNEY FOR ACCUSED MARINE: Alan, we don't know. Because unfortunately these Defense Department sources are cowardly, unnamed Defense Department officials. And in fact, the NCIS hasn't yet finished their investigation.
So at this point in time, it's all meaningless. We know how Washington works. Leaks and rumors come out of everywhere. I know what Congressman Murtha has said. I know that those statements were false and malicious.
COLMES: Now he...
ZAID: Go ahead.
COLMES: He got those statements from Defense — the Defense Department, and if the Defense Department deliberately lied, why wouldn't you sue them? Why are you suing the messenger who had every reason to believe that what he was told by the Defense Department was probably true?
ZAID: Well, a couple of things. One thing actually, the Defense Department officials would have absolute immunity from suit under the federal tort claims act.
Congressman Murtha, this is very interesting. Now he supposedly was briefed by several Defense Department officials, including, he says, the commandant of the Marines.
This raises an important issue, because if, in fact — and I frankly doubt that the defense — the commandant told Congressman Murtha that his Marines killed people in cold blood and committed war crimes.
But if in fact, let's say that he might have said that. That means that the commandant of the Marines three months ago, before the investigation was complete, prejudged the findings that would come out, and that would cause us problems in the criminal trial because it would send a message to the jury pool that, in fact, they should convict before even the innocence of these individuals are put onto trial.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Hey, Mark, first of all, this is about a rush to judgment in this case. As you pointed out, they're unnamed Democrats. As I understand, has anyone been indicted in this case, Mark?
ZAID: No, not yet. There haven't been any charges. And I'll say this lawsuit has nothing to do with politics from our part. It doesn't matter that Murtha is a Democrat or a Republican. We're not into whether the troops should come home or not come home.
We're into protecting the innocence of young men and women who serve in the Marines and put their lives on the line. And they made split-second decisions.
HANNITY: But he...
ZAID: Go ahead.
HANNITY: Well, but they deserve that. This is the point here. This is a Congressman that ought to be defending, more than anybody else, the right of the troops to at least have evidence presented, an opportunity to defend themselves, an opportunity to respond, an opportunity to seek out evidence and exhume the bodies, considering the accusations that are being made here.
And it's about people that are politicizing it, and they're throwing troops down the stairs politically in the process of making their political points and achieving their political goals. Isn't that a big part of what's happened here?
ZAID: Well, yes. And there were other congressmen and senators who were briefed, as well, and you never saw any of them coming forward with whatever they were told or their personal views.
I mean, Congressman Murtha has come forward and said he knows exactly what happened. How does he know that? Who told him that?
HANNITY: I'd like to know.
ZAID: This was months before the investigation was completed.
Now here we are, trying to build a democracy in Iraq and establish due process of law, and yet the congressman is shirking due process of law here in the United States.
HANNITY: Mark, you want — and if anyone deserves it, it's the men and women that are fighting for this country. But my point to you is he's politicizing it. He says we can't win the war in Iraq. He accused these troops of murder without any proof or an investigation being finished in this case. He's playing politics, and you guys better understand what's in play here, because this is all about politics and public opinion.
ZAID: Absolutely. Sad to say, the congressman could have made his broader policy points very crystal clear without ever accusing the Marines of being cold-blooded murderers.
COLMES: All right. We thank you very much for being with us tonight.
ZAID: Thank you.
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