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2005-12-21

First Step Towards Impeachment? Conyers Introduces Bills to Censure Bush and Cheney

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We speak with Congressman John Conyers (D–MI) introduced measures to censure President Bush and Vice President Cheney for misleading lawmakers on the decision to go to war in Iraq. Conyers is also seeking the creation of a select committee to investigate the Administration’s possible crimes and make recommendations regarding grounds for impeachment. [includes rush transcript]

The "I" word has returned to Washington. Seven years to the week after the House of Representatives impeached President Clinton, discussion of the possible impeachment of President Bush has reached a new high.

In recent days, Senator Barbara Boxer, Congressmen John Lewis and John Conyers, Nixon’s former White House Counsel John Dean as well as numerous legal scholars have suggested Bush has committed impeachable offenses by illegally ordering the National Security Agency to eavesdrop inside the country without a court warrant.

Even conservative legal scholars have admitted the severity of Bush’s actions. Norm Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said "I think if we’re going to be intellectually honest here, this really is the kind of thing that Alexander Hamilton was referring to when impeachment was discussed."

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California said she had written to several constitutional scholars to ask whether Bush had committed an impeachable offense by ordering the warrant-less domestic spying.

Boxer’s request came after former White House John Dean said Bush had become "the first President to admit to an impeachable offense."

Earlier this week Democratic Congressman John Conyers introduced measures to censure President Bush and Vice President Cheney–not for the domestic spying case but for misleading lawmakers on the decision to go to war in Iraq.

Conyers is also seeking the creation of a select committee to investigate the Administration’s possible crimes and make recommendations regarding grounds for impeachment.

To back up his case Conyers has just released a reported titled "The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution and Coverups in the Iraq War."

To support Conyers" efforts activists have also launched a website this week titled censurebush.org.

  • Rep. John Conyers (D–MI), second longest serving member of the House of Representatives and the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. In the 1970s he played a prominent role in the recent impeachment process of Richard Nixon.

Transcript

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

AMY GOODMAN: We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Congressmember Conyers.

REP. JOHN CONYERS: Good morning, and it’s always good to be with you, Amy. It’s a wonderful program that you have. Your earlier segment ties almost into this, with the groups being harassed, and tried to be connected to political — to al-Qaeda when it’s pretty clear that that’s not the case. Now, what we’re doing is trying to put this into a outline of moving forward, and so, on the closing hours of the session over the weekend, I introduced House Resolution 635, which creates a select committee to investigate the administration’s intent to go to war before they received congressional authorization and manipulation of pre-war intelligence and encouraging and countenancing torture of detainees and retaliating against critics and to make recommendations regarding possible grounds for impeachment.

Now this [inaudible] to the Ervin Select Committee during the Watergate days and allows us to create a committee that’s, first of all, an even number of Republicans and Democrats with the vice chairman being a Democrat who has a co-equal subpoena power. The reason we’re doing that is that there’s a lot more information that we need to be considering how far forward we move. We do have, although we don’t think there’s any need to wait for what can be done, and that’s immediate resolution censuring President George W. Bush for failing to respond to the continued request for information and the other allegations of misleading and countenancing torture. And then we have 637, which is for the Vice President, who has done a number of things, not only in connection with the President, but on his own, that we think merit both of these two people being censured in House Resolution 636 for Bush and 637 for Vice President Cheney.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Conyers, I wanted to play for you a moment a clip of Illinois Republican Congressman, Henry Hyde, not today, but in 1998. He headed the House Judiciary Committee, which decided whether President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, in his efforts to keep it hidden, should be referred to the House of Representatives for impeachment proceedings. This is Congressman Hyde speaking on the floor of the House, December 18, 1998, referencing Clinton’s presidential oath of office.

REP. HENRY HYDE: That oath constituted a compact between the President and the American people. That compact has been broken. The people’s trust has been betrayed. The nation’s chief executive has shown himself unwilling or incapable of enforcing its laws, for he has corrupted the rule of law.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Henry Hyde in 1998. Compare what you see today with the current President in his second term, Congressmember Conyers.

REP. JOHN CONYERS: Well, that was one of the sorriest episodes in the history of American impeachment, because they were referring to personal conduct. That president had not tried to start a war secretly, was not trying to undo conventions against torture, was not misstating or manipulating intelligence or information to justify a war. He wasn’t taking retaliatory measures against critics of his administration, including people who were in the Central Intelligence Agency. So the high-flown statements had no bearing to the facts. As a matter of fact, what we’re doing —

AMY GOODMAN: We have ten seconds.

REP. JOHN CONYERS: We’re moving with a great caution toward what a number of people are realizing should be appropriately done.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Conyers, I want to thank you very much for being with us. And we’ll link your proposal for censure on our website at DemocracyNow.org, and people can email us at mail@democracynow.org with your response.

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