Is it Time to Impeach the President?

Cross-posted on John Kerry for President 2008

As reported today, President Bush has full confidence in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales:

“April 24 (Bloomberg) — President George W. Bush said he’s confident that U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales did “nothing wrong” in the firings of eight federal prosecutors and said Iraq’s leader is meeting U.S. expectations.

“Al could’ve done a better job and his department could’ve done a better job of just explaining why we did what we did,” Bush said in an interview in New York today on PBS television’s “Charlie Rose” show. “Instead we’ve got hearings and testimonies based on something that was perfectly legal.”

Gonzales testified April 19 before the Senate Judiciary Committee to explain the circumstances behind the firing of the federal prosecutors. Bush has brushed aside calls from Democrats and some Republicans for Gonzales to resign over the dismissals, a stance he reasserted today.

“I’ve got confidence in Al,” Bush said. “He’s caught up in Washington right now; it’s what happens in that town a lot — there’s a lot of politics.’

But this wasn’t just “a lot of politics”. This was lying. It is often not the act that gets the criminal–it is the lies and obfuscation that catches felons.
As Adam Cohen reported in the New York Times last week, some of the crimes that may have been committed include:

1. Misrepresentations to Congress. The relevant provision, 18 U.S.C. 3/5sctmark1 4/5 1505, is very broad. It is illegal to lie to Congress, and also to ”impede” it in getting information. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty indicated to Congress that the White House’s involvement in firing the United States attorneys was minimal, something that Justice Department e-mail messages suggest to be untrue.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made his own dubious assertion to Congress: ”I would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney position for political reasons.”

The administration appears to be trying to place all of the blame on Mr. Gonzales’s chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, who resigned after reportedly failing to inform top Justice Department officials about the White House’s role in the firings. If Mr. Sampson withheld the information from Mr. McNulty, who then misled Congress, Mr. Sampson may have violated 3/5sctmark1 4/5 1505.

But Mr. Sampson’s lawyer now says other top Justice Department officials knew of the White House’s role. Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, said last week that ”Kyle Sampson will not be the next Scooter Libby, the next fall guy.” Congress will be looking for evidence that Mr. Gonzales and Mr. McNulty knew that what they told Congress was false or misleading.

Convictions of this kind are not common, but they happen. Just ask former White House aide David Safavian, who was convicted last year of making false statements to a Senate committee.

How does this affect President Bush?

It was James Madison himself who argued about the basis of impeaching the President:

As noted in this 1974 Judiciary Committee Report on the heels of the Watergate fiasco:

“Madison argued during the debate that the president would be subject to impeachment for “the wanton removal of meritorious officers.”71 He also contended that the power of the President unilaterally to remove subordinates was “absolutely necessary” because “it will make him in a peculiar manner, responsible for [the] conduct” of executive officers. It would, Madison said, subject him to impeachment himself, if he suffers them to perpetrate with impunity high crimes or misdemeanors against the United States, or neglects to superintend their conduct, so as to check their excesses.72

In another comment in the report, the political firing of the U.S. Attorneys also is brought to mind:

“If, said Baldwin, the President “in a fit of passion” removed” all the good officers of the Government” and the Senate were unable to choose qualified successors, the consequence would be that the President “would be obliged to do the duties himself; or, if he did not, we would impeach him, and turn him out of office, as he had done others.”75

Whether Gonzales had the right to let the U.S. Attorneys go or not is no longer the only question this President needs to answer. It is his attempt to protect and shelter an Attorney General who has lied to Congress, denied knowledge of events, and has obstructed the very Justice he was sworn to protect.

Nothing surprises me anymore.


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About Robert Freedland

A concerned American and supporter of Senator John Kerry, I am the author of the blog "John Kerry for President 2008". I am also the author of the stock market investing blog, "Stock Picks Bob's Advice".
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10 Responses to Is it Time to Impeach the President?

  1. Bob

    Nothing surprises me anymore either. And YES — it is time to impeach Bush. Long overdue in my book!

  2. BlueWashington says:

    While I understand the sentiment to all this, there’s just one problem to impeaching either Bush and/or Cheney. That is the Senate. There are way too many Republicans there to get a conviction.

    So really what’s the point?

    Impeach Gonzales!! That’s the guy who I think Republicans wouldn’t mind throwing the book at. Go for what you can get!!

  3. Blue W

    Dennis Kucinich filed impeachment papers against Cheney today. I’ll see if I can find a link to the news about it.

  4. I wonder what lame and english aborting saying will come from Bush with the Impeachment filing on Cheney.

  5. Pingback: The Democratic Daily

  6. Blue W,

    It is true that votes along party line might not be adequate to convict for impeachment. But this is not a question as to the number of votes. You are right that lots of Republicans would like to see Gonzales take the fall. Like Libby. But the broader issue is whether Democrats believe that high crimes and misdemeanors are being committed by this President.

    Whether missing 2 million emails, lying to Congress, starting a war on false pretenses, failing to follow the FISA laws, Signing Statements, and suspension of the Geneva Conventions, elimination of Habeas Corpus and the FBI abuses of the Patriot Act are enough to bring Impeachment Articles forward. The firing of U.S. Attorneys who fail to do the political work of this President is the final straw.

    Much like my Senator Russ Feingold who cast the only vote against the Patriot Act, all of our Senators, both Republican and Democrat or Independent or other, must stand up and be counted on these issues that threaten the very foundations of our country.


  7. Darrell Prows says:

    I’m still on the fence over whether an impeachment attempt would be worth the effort, but I coming closer to jumping to the pro-impeachment side.

    Sadly, the whole impeachment subject has been cheapened after the farce that Slick Willie was subjected to.

    Gratefully, I was in law school for the Nixon thing, so got to witness a historic event from an excellent vantage point.

  8. BlueWashington says:

    Pamela, Bob & Darrell:

    That’s my dilemma. Bush gets impeached in the House, then goes to Senate and gets off – what’s the point? As JK likes to say, they are 19 Dems short to get anything around the president, for veto purposes (or get a conviction).
    As Darrell has pointed out, the process has been cheapened with the adventures of Wild Bill. Impeach just to make a point? Or, go after the various arms of the administration – Gonzales, Rumsfeld, Brownie, Wolfowitz, et al. I don’t know. I guess I lean towards the latter, for now.

  9. Blue Washington,

    It is time to start doing what is right. Not what is politically expedient. To vote and act according to principles not according to what we know we have the votes for.

    We certainly need to find out whether there are grounds for impeachment on any of the individuals you refer to. If so we need to proceed.

    When the evidence is clear, the votes will be there. This is not about some minor infraction like having sex in the oval office. This is about starting war, lying to Congress, subverting the Balance of Powers, suspending Habeas Corpus, Failing to follow the Law as in the FISA courts, failing to follow international treaties like the Geneva Conventions, and compromising even the validity of the election process.

    So it doesn’t bother me whether we have the votes or not. The future of our Democracy stands in the balance. Do we need to count votes first to determine what is the proper course of action?