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2004-06-16

Should President Bush Be Impeached?

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Attorney John Bonifaz argues the president has commited high crimes by lying to the American public and Congress about Iraq in the lead-up to the invasion. He makes his case in the new book "Warrior-King: The Case For Impeaching George W. Bush." [Includes transcript]

Next Tuesday on June 22nd, former President Bill Clinton’s much-anticipated memoir, "My Life" will hit bookstores. The 1,000-page book is expected to soar to the top of the best-seller lists and pre-orders have already exceeded the stated first printing of 1.5 million copies.

One of the main reasons for the book’s popularity is undoubtedly Clinton’s account of the events that led him to become the second American president in US history to be impeached.

Clinton denied having had a sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky, a young intern who had worked at the White House. But in December 1998, a Republican-dominated House voted to impeach Clinton, charging him with lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice.

While Clinton was impeached over a personal scandal, some say President George W Bush should be impeached for much serious crimes. John Bonifaz makes that case in his latest book "Warrior-King: The Case for Impeaching George W. Bush."

In February and March 2003, Bonifaz served as lead counsel for a coalition of US soldiers, parents of soldiers, and six Members of Congress–led by Representatives Conyers and Kucinich–in a federal lawsuit challenging the authority of President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld to launch a war against Iraq absent a congressional declaration of war or equivalent action.

The federal courts eventually ruled that they couldn’t decide the case because it raised "political questions" to be addressed only by the political branches of government. John Bonifaz is also the founder and general counsel of the National Voting Rights Institute, a prominent legal center in the campaign finance reform field.

  • John Bonifaz, author of the new book "Warrior King: The Case For Impeaching George W. Bush." Last year Bonifaz and a coalition of U.S. soldiers, parents of soldiers and six members of Congress sued the president and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld seeking to prevent them from waging an undeclared and illegal war. He is a Boston-based attorney and the founder of the National Voting Rights Institute.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. As we turn now To John Boniface, an attorney who’s written a book "Warrior King, The Case For Impeaching George W. Bush". John, welcome to Democracy Now!

JOHN BONIFAZ: Thank you, Amy. Thank you for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: Lay out your case.

JOHN BONIFAZ: This President has taken this nation to an illegal and unconstitutional war . President is not a king who does not have the power to take the nation to war without congress first authorizing it, first either declaring war or taking equivalent action. Congress never authorized this war, despite the myth of what congress did in October 2002 and the president never had the authority, therefore, to launch this first strike invasion against Iraq. Furthermore, beyond that trampling of the constitution, in taking this nation to illegal war, causing thousands of deaths, we now know that the president lied to the united states congress and to the American people about the reasons for taking a nation to war. Weapons of Mass Destruction, none of which have been found, alleged links to al- Qaeda, none of which have been proven true. This President and his senior advisers who took this nation into a serial war should be now be held accountable for these impeachment offenses. These are the highest of all crimes that could possibly be considered as an impeachable offense and the charge should be made. There is no immunity even in an election year to presidents being charged with impeachable offenses if they have committed them. This president should be charged with having taken this nation to illegal war and having violated the oath of office in the constitution and deserving impeachment.

AMY GOODMAN: Who is Ellridge Jerry?

JOHN BONIFAZ: Ellridge Jerry is a delegate from Massachusetts to the Constitutional Convention back in 1787 who rose to object when it was suggested that the president would have the sole power for taking a nation into war. And his objection carried the day. He was proven right. The delegates at the constitutional convention offered the war powers clause of the U.S. Constitution, article I, section eight, clause 11, which states very clearly that congress and only congress has the power to start a war against another nation, to declare a war. And this is not a power that can be transferred to the President of the United States. And yet that’s essentially what Congress did in October 2002. It said to the president, you decide whether or not to take this nation to war. We’re not going to decide. We’ll hand that decision-making authority over to you. They didn’t have the ability to handle that decision-make authority over to the president under the Constitution and the President didn’t have the ability to seize it. He seized the powers of the king and taking this nation into an illegal war and now more than ever, we’ve got to stand up for the constitution. We’ve got to stand up for democracy and demand accountability of the high crime this is president has committed.

AMY GOODMAN: You’ve sued President Bush on what grounds?

JOHN BONIFAZ: We represented a coalition of United States soldiers, parents of soldiers and members of Congress whereby Congressman John Conyers Jr. and Dennis Kucinich who charged the President did not have the authority to launch this first strike invasion of Iraq. We filed the suit in February 2003 on the eve of the Iraq War. We retreated on the expedited basis up to the federal appeals court. The Federal Appeals Court treated it seriously and had tough questions for both sides, including the justice department which came out in full force on behalf of the President. But in the end, these judges did not have the courage to stand up to this President and not have the courage to do their duty under the Constitution in which they’re to uphold and protect it and they let this President take the nation into an illegal war. So, the remaining remedy is with we the people. We the people have the power to demand the removal from office of anyone who commits impeachable offenses, who commits high crimes. That’s why the founders put this article into the Constitution. This is an indictment that ought to be made of the President of the United States. He ought to be charged of having committed these crimes and in the halls of congress and around this nation, as to whether or not the President can take the nation into an illegal war resulting in thousands of deaths and not be held accountable. We need to demand accountability of this president and of his senior advisers for doing this.

AMY GOODMAN: Name some of the people that you are representing. Who joined the suit?

JOHN BONIFAZ: Well, there were first of all three John Doe plaintiffs, three united states soldiers whose identities remain protected because of the fear of retaliation they would face in the United States military for bringing this case. But there were parents of soldiers, lead by Charlie Richardson and Nancy Lesson who are courageous leaders, who have spoken all around this country on behalf of military families in opposition to this war. And then, of course, there were members of congress, lead by Congressman John Conyers Jr. and Dennis Kucinich, Joe Serrano, Jesse Jackson Jr., all who had the courage, 12 of them, to stand up and take this president on. Now I think one member of congress, at least, if not more, ought to have the courage again to charge this president with what he’s done. Impeachable offenses. Introduce articles of impeachment or at the least, a resolution of inquiry which would begin the process of investigating whether or not this President has committed impeachable offenses.

AMY GOODMAN: When was the last time Congress voted for a war?

JOHN BONIFAZ: Well, first, this is not a "magic words test". Congress last formally declared war in World War II. But congress has taken other actions in other wars that have indicated some level of involvement. They have appropriated money during the Vietnam War. They issued mandatory draft requirements during the Vietnam War. We didn’t have anything like that on the eve of the invasion of Iraq. We had no appropriations for this invasion. We had no mandatory draft. All we had was the October resolution, which Senator Robert Byrd, who has commanded United States history, called "...a rag of a resolution, a piece of cowardice". It did not authorize war, it simply transferred to the president the decision-making power of whether or not to take this nation to war and the president embraced it. He went around the country saying I’ll decide whether or not we go to war against Iraq. I’ll let you know. And the world waited for this one individual with this awesome power to take this nation to war. This is the power of Kings and Queens of European Monarchies of the past and this is not the power of a presidency of democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: What happened to your lawsuit?

JOHN BONIFAZ: The judges did not have the courage, in the end, to intervene. They initially ruled at the appellate level that it was not right, that the facts were not there, showing that the U.N., the security council is not going to approve this warp and the president would take the nation into war nonetheless unilaterally. Once those facts emerged, which supported our alternative argument that if the congress approved this war, it only did so with the condition that the U.N. Would support it. Once those facts emerged, the court ducked. It chose not to intervene and issued a one-paragraph ruling after that 30-page ruling saying the facts are still not there. Sadly, this is a story of all three institutions of government, the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, and the Judicial Branch letting us down, failing us in their abilities and responsibilities with respect to the constitution. And now it’s up to us, we the people, to demand that document back. Now didn’t those federal courts say that you’re raising political questions and issues in this case that could only be answered by the political representatives? They said essentially that when Congress and the President are not in conflict on a matter of war and peace, that they were not going to intervene that. Effectively would mean the congress and the president can collude together to violate the Constitution and the courts have no ability to step in and intervene. In 1803, Chief Justice Marshall said that it is the duties of the courts to declare what the law is. That’s all we sought in this case. Yet these courts refused to declare — refused to interim the constitution and the October 2002 resolution for from what it was, which was not an authority give ton the president at all. It was, in fact, transferring to the President his decision-making power whether or not to take the nation into war.

AMY GOODMAN: Since you have written "Warrior King: The Case For Impeaching George W. Bush," have you come up with more reasons why George W. Bush should be impeached?

JOHN BONIFAZ: Unfortunately, yes. I mean, Bob Woodward’s case, his book documented the war in Afghanistan and the lead up to the war in Iraq. The President can’t allocate money, only congress can. And then there’s the torture scandal. Does the President condone torture? He deserves to face impeachment charges. Let’s be clear here. This can not be any clearer. If the president who was involved in seeing the justice department, from the pentagon, that suggest that torture would be permissible of prisoners in Afghanistan or In Iraq or Guantanamo or anywhere else, this President deserves to face impeachment charges. If he does not, if he does not, then the Constitution suffers. We’re effectively allowing the Constitution to be suspended in other words for this president to have these kinds of powers. We cannot declare post 9/11 by fiat that the President is now king on matters of foreign policy, that the President can take us into wars on his own personal whim. We cannot allow that to happen. It is the destruction of the constitution if we allow that to happen. We have to stand up and protect it.

AMY GOODMAN: How does this case compare to what happened to President Clinton and his impeachment?

JOHN BONIFAZ: Oh, there’s obviously no real comparison. President Clinton committed allegedly perjury and obstruction of justice, charges for which he was facing impeachment in the house of representatives and did have that vote of impeachment in the house, was not convicted in the senate. But no one died. No one died in the Monica Lewinsky Affair. This President has taken this nations to war resulting in the deaths of 800-plus united states soldiers, thousands of Iraqi civilians dead, hundreds and thousands — thousands of Iraqi civilians permanently injured as well as soldiers on our side. This President should be held accountable for all that. He should be held accountable for taking this nation into this war that continues to spiral out of control. There is no real comparison to that and the Monica Lewinsky Affair. And if we’re going to impeach a president for alleged perjury and obstruction of justice, surely we ought to debate whether or not we should impeach a President for taking the nation to illegal war.

AMY GOODMAN: Who determines that debate?

JOHN BONIFAZ: We the people. There are two websites, www. impeachcentral.com and www.impeachnow.org in which people can weigh in on this question. Call their members of Congress, urge them to introduce Articles Of Impeachment or at least a Resolution Of Inquiry that begins the investigation process. It only takes one member of congress, in earnest, to begin this debate in the halls of Congress. One member of Congress can step up and demand that we have an investigation into whether or not these are impeachable offenses. We the people need to pressure our members of Congress to demand that that investigation begin now.

AMY GOODMAN: Representative John Conyers wrote the introduction to your book.

JOHN BONIFAZ: He did and he was a plaintiff in the case we brought and I think he is one person who ought to be called upon. He is obviously the Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, somebody who is on the Watergate committee. He knows about impeachable offenses and he ought to be asked to take this stand again. They had the courage to sue the President on the eve of the Iraq War. They ought to have the courage again to stand up and demand that this President ought to be held accountable for these impeachable offenses.

AMY GOODMAN: I asked Dennis Kucinich, Democratic Presidential Candidate during the New Hampshire Primary, about the idea of impeaching George Bush and he said the people make that decision, essentially, when they vote. They can decide to vote him out of office. In fact, he said "Why make a martyr out of him before?"

JOHN BONIFAZ: With all due respect to my former client, who I’m proud to have represented, the reality here is that the impeachment proceeding is a quasi political and constitutional proceeding. It involves taking evidence, it involves subpoenas, it involves discovery powers, it involves putting people under oath. All of that does not take place on election day. Yes, we’re having an election in November of this year. But we ought not to look back in January 2005 with a possible reclaiming of the White House by George W. Bush and say "Oh, now we ought to look at whether or not he committed impeachable offenses." Nixon survived through the 1972 election only to face impeachment charges in 1973-74. We ought to begin this inquiry now. The people of this country ought to have this debate placed before them as to whether or not these are impeachable offenses. This is a debate that ought to begin in earnest now.

AMY GOODMAN: Why do you think the Democrats don’t take this up in the way that the Republicans so wonderfully did when it came to President Clinton?

JOHN BONIFAZ: I think unfortunately the Democrats are scared. They somehow believe that the Commander-in-Chief has powers that the framers never intended and at this time of war they don’t want to speak out on this kind of question against the commander-in-chief. But now with these torture memos, I think it has to be imminently clear that the President deserves to face this inquiry.

AMY GOODMAN: John Bonifaz, thank you for joining us.

JOHN BONIFAZ: Thank you for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: The author of "Warrior King: The Case For Impeaching George W. Bush." This is Democracy Now!

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