by sherry clark
The House Judiciary Committee held a Congressional inquiry on allegations of Executive Power Misconduct yesterday, July 25th. As the room filled, audience members cheered as Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich entered the room. Harry Waxman was caught smiling. But there were many others that didn’t appear quite so happy.
Chairman John Conyers called the committee to order and said, “We face few issues more difficult, complex or important than separation of powers in general, and excesses of the executive branch in particular. As our first great civil libertarian…Thomas Jefferson wrote, ‘The greatest calamity which would befall us would be submission to a government of unlimited powers.’
“And so it’s for that reason that the founders gave Congress the power to oversee the Executive branch as well as the power of the purse: the power to decide when the country goes to war and the power to remove–through the constitutional process, officers who may have violated their oath. And so it’s for these same reasons that the founders created independent courts to operate as a check on the [other] two political branches and to serve as the final protector of our precious rights and liberties. …
“At my direction, this committee has spent a considerable portion of its time, energy, and resources investigating allegations concerning the politicization of the Department of Justice, the misuse of signing statements, misuse of authority with regards to detention, interrogation, and rendition of detainees and others, possible manipulation of intelligence regarding the Iraq war, improper retaliation against critics of the administration–including the outing of Valerie Plame, and excessive secrecy by the administration including the misuse of various privileges and immunities. I believe the evidence on these matters is both credible and substantial and warrants direct answers from the most senior members of the administration–under oath, if at all possible.”
Conyers continued, “We know the executive branch can and does overreach frequently in times of war. As one who was included on President Nixon’s enemies list, I’m all too familiar with the specter of an unchecked executive branch, and the risks to our citizen’s rights are even graver today–as the war on terror has no specific end point.”
Ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee, Lamar Hunt (R-TX) answered Chairman Conyer’s opening remarks with, “[In regards to this hearing,] it seems that we are hosting an anger management class. Nothing is going to come out of this hearing with regard to impeachment of the President. I know it, the media knows it, and the Speaker knows it. The democratic leadership has said time again, they have no intention of bringing any impeachment resolution for the President or the Vice-President to the House floor.
“Why is that? It’s because they know it won’t pass. … Because there is no evidence to support impeachment. To quote a democratic member of this committee during the Clinton impeachment, “[Congress] has no authority to forcibly remove the President simply because they dislike him or disapprove of his actions.” Hunt was unclear as to which President he referred to when he said, “And another democratic member of this judiciary committee said yesterday he did not think the President had committed any crime. …The members of the Judiciary Committee have found no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing by the President or the Vice-President…”
In closing Hunt added, “I want to read…an excerpt from the House rules…in regards to references to the President: ‘…The rules do not permit the use of language that is personally offensive toward the President. Personal criticism, innuendo, ridicule, or terms of opprobrium are not in order.’”
Upon Conyer’s introduction of Robert Wexler (FL-D), the audience again broke into applause and he boldly spoke, “…I have vigorously argued that this committee should immediately begin impeachment hearings. The allegations made against the Bush White House documents serious abuses that if proven, would certainly constitute high crimes. …”
“The power of impeachment which our founding fathers provided to the House of Representatives was designed precisely for this type of wrongdoing. …When an administration takes actions that amount to high crimes, we–the representatives of the people–are left with no option other than to seek impeachment and removal from office. Our government was founded by a delicate balance of powers whereby one branch carefully checks the other branches to prevent a dangerous consolidation of power. The actions of this White House have eviscerated this careful balance. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. This is an American issue. Without these checks and balances a president can run roughshod over any law with impunity. Congress must end this disturbing pattern of behavior and in these circumstances, unfortunately the only option left is impeachment hearings.”
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) who was on the staff of Don Edwards during the impeachment of President Richard Nixon and on the Judiciary Committee during the impeachment of President Clinton, introduced the definition of high crimes and misdemeanors as “rogue action that really undercuts the very core system of government.”
Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) who had previously submitted articles of impeachment against Dick Cheney (HR 333) and President Bush (HR-1258). The the latest legislation (HR 1345) includes 35 articles of impeachment against the President.
Rep. Kucinich illustrated the most commonly agreed upon article by saying, “Many members of Congress relied on these representations from the White House to inform their decision to support the legislation that authorized the use of force against Iraq. We all know [members of Congress] who have said if they knew then what they knew now, they would not have voted to permit an attack upon Iraq. The war was totally unnecessary, unprovoked and unjustified.
“The question for Congress is this: What responsibility does the President and members of his administration have for that unnecessary, unprovoked and unjustified war?”
Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) advocated for the Constitution, balance of power in government, as well as 9/11 truth by saying, “The proper kind of attention has to be directed to [9/11] from the very beginning…There were more than 40 intelligence briefings delivered to the top levels of this administration from January 2001 through September 10, 2001. …All of those briefings included references to al-Quaeda [and] bin-Laden. …The most prominent one of those [Presidential Daily Briefs] …was delivered on August 6th … which was so obvious–particularly in its headline, ['Bin-Laden determined to strike in the US.'] … The warnings to the White House about Osama bin-Laden… should have promoted actions to prevent the attack of September 11, but they did not. And why they did not is a major question that we should be confronting here in the Congress, particularly here in the House of Representatives.”
The 2008 Libertarian Candidate for President, Former Rep. Bob Barr (D-GA ) said in an unassuming, gentile manner, “The privacy trust rankings if US government agencies… in [a non-partisan] 2008 survey…named the US Postal Service as the most trusted institution of the federal government, (laughter) but ranking near the bottom, is the Department of Justice…
“Nearly 4 times as many Americans …would sooner place their trust in the US Postal Service than the US Department of Justice. That should concern all of us as Americans…regardless of which side of the isle they sit. …
“One does not need to impune the reputation nor the motives of any one President … to recognize the validity and importance of the matters before this committee. As one of America’s greatest Justices, Lewis Brandie said… ‘The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men whose zeal is well meaning — but without understanding. It is up to this committee to provide … the understanding [that] the institution of liberty is sorely lacking.”
Stephen Pressor, Professor of History at Northwestern University defended Bush by reading, “I can’t believe there are any grounds for impeachment here… There is no doubt that the Constitution does give considerable discretion to each branch of the government to determine for itself the reach of it’s own powers. As near as I can tell this is what is meant by the theory of the unitary executive … in the course of fulfilling his executive responsibilities–particularly in a time of war or a national crisis, the President needs the freedom to act defectively [that is not a typographical error] in the national interest. If a President–in good faith seeks to act in the national interests rather than his own, his conduct is not impeachable.”
Conservative Bruce Fein, Associate Deputy Attorney General, 1981-82, and Chairman of the American Freedom Agenda, spoke without notes, but C-SPAN coverage was somehow interrupted with audio difficulties exactly when the sheer power of his message struck a fatal blow to the Neo-conservative status quo.
Fein began, “[Last night, I learned that] … there was an insistence on prohibiting pejorative references to President George W. Bush or Vice-President Richard Cheney. For example, insinuating they had committed high crimes and misdemeanors. …So I puzzled over the dilemma and then the answer came like an epiphany from Dragnet’s Sargent Friday, ‘I changed the names to protect the guilty.’
“…If President George W. Bush had knocked to enter the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, the presiding officer George Washington would have denied him admission, and thereby hangs an alarming tale.
The executive branch has vandalized the Constitution every bit as much as the barbarians sacked Rome in 410 AD. The Executive branch has destroyed the Constitution’s time-honored checks and balances; taking the nation perilously close to executive despotism. The Executive branch rejects the basic philosophical tenets of the United States of America. It does not accept that America was conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that sovereignty in a republican form of government lies with the people — not with the executive; that there are no vassals or serfs in the Constitution’s landscape; that every man and woman is a king or queen but no one wears a crown; and, that the Rule of Law is the nation’s civic religion. And the founding fathers fashioned impeachment as a remedy for attacks against the Constitution order. …
“What [the President] has asserted in the aftermath of 9/11 is that every square inch of the world, including the United States, is an active battleground–including where we’re sitting at present. And that if he has a suspicion– maybe by his gut instincts or otherwise–that there’s al-Quaeda or an international terrorist anywhere–he can use military force. He can impose military law in order to wage war– in his view successfully.
“He can invade Iran if he thinks that’s necessary to succeed in the war against international terrorism–irrespective of what this branch may do. Now that truly is an alarming power. …Any time any president claims that he is fighting international terrorism, he can kidnap, arrest [or] kill anyone he thinks is in international terrorist. There is no second guessing him. He doesn’t go to court and ask for probable cause–’cause in wartime you shoot first and ask questions later.
“Now it’s true he hasn’t asserted that authority …in the United States yet, but we shouldn’t wait around until we have a coup before we take protective action…
“[In response to their repudiation of taxation without representation] the founding fathers didn’t say, ‘[the British] haven’t asserted their authority yet. Let’s wait till the tyranny comes!’”
“Let me … explain the dilemma we confront now: As the Roman republic degenerated into the Roman empire and dictatorship [Tacitus] said, ‘The worst crimes were dared by few, practiced by more but tolerated by all.’”