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THE PEOPLE V. RICHARD CHENEY


By Wil S. Hylton, GQ

Resolved, that Richard B. Cheney, vice president of the United States, should be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors and that these articles of impeachment be submitted to the American people

When the Founding Fathers crafted the U.S. Constitution, they wanted to be sure that the president, vice president, and other ranking officials could be evicted more easily than the British monarchy. To ensure that the process would be swift and certain, they made it simple: Only two conditions must be met. First, a majority of the House of Representatives must agree on a set of charges; then, two-thirds of the Senate must agree to convict. After that, there is no legal wrangling, no appeal to a higher authority, no reversal on technical grounds. There is not even a limit on what the charges may be. As the Constitution describes it, the cause may be “treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors,” but even these were left deliberately vague; as Gerald Ford once pointed out while still serving in the House of Representatives, the only real definition of an “impeachable offense” is “whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.”

To the credit of this nation, despite the relative ease of impeachment, only seventeen officials have sunk to such ignominious depths that the process has been invoked. The reasons for impeachment have ranged from the outrageous to the banal: from putting political enemies in jail (Judge James H. Peck, 1830) to cheating on taxes (Judge Harry E. Claiborne, 1986); from being rude to Congress (“unmindful of the harmony and courtesies which ought to exist and be maintained between the executive and legislative branches,” President Andrew Johnson, 1868) to being a drunkard (“a man of loose morals and intemperate habits,” Judge John Pickering, 1803). One president was even impeached for having the good taste to keep his sex life private (concealing “the nature and details of his relationship with a subordinate Government employee,” President William Jefferson Clinton, 1998).

In the case of George W. Bush, there may be any number of reasons not to add an eighteenth name to the list. These range from the moderate (that two consecutive presidential impeachments would do more harm than good to the nation) to the provocative (that while Bush has been wrong about a staggering number of issues, he is too hapless to be held accountable for it) to the pragmatic (that even if Bush were impeached, we would still be stuck with Vice President Cheney). There is even, for those inclined to such things, an argument by design: that the president is the president, and therefore God designed it that way.

But none of these apply to Vice President Cheney, and not only because it was Cheney (and not God, or George W. Bush, or anybody else) who selected himself as vice president back in 2000. With Cheney, there are also no lingering questions about capacity, motive, or malice. Over the past six years, as the country has spiraled into military misadventure, fiscal madness, and environmental meltdown, the vice president has not merely been wrong about the issues; he has been duplicitous, deceitful, and deliberately destructive to the American democracy. These things can no longer be denied by rational minds:

That in the buildup to war in Iraq, the vice president, lacking confidence in the true casus belli, conspired to invent additional ones, misrepresenting the available intelligence, crafting new “intelligence,” and then spreading these falsehoods to the public, perverting the democratic process that he is sworn to uphold.
That as the war devolved into occupation, the vice president again sabotaged the democratic system, developing back channels into the Coalition Provisional Authority, a body not under his purview, to remove some of the most effective staff and replace them with his own loyal supplicants—undercutting America’s best effort at war in order to expand his own power.

That in his domestic capacity, the vice president has been equally reckless with the trust of his office, converting the vice presidency into a de facto prime ministership, conducting secret meetings with secret policy boards to determine national policy and then refusing to share the details of those meetings with the other branches of government.

Finally, that the vice president has repeatedly promoted the interests of a corporation, Halliburton, over the interests of the nation, causing untold harm to American economic, military, and public health.

For these and other offenses against the nation, Vice President Cheney, clearly, is guilty of crimes against the state.

Herewith, in the absence of action for the past six years by a timid Republican Congress and a refusal to act by the new Democratic leadership, we, the Fourth Estate, take the mantle of indictment unto ourselves and present these Articles of Impeachment, to be adopted by the United States House of Representatives and voted upon by the United States Senate, at their earliest possible leisure:

Resolved
That Richard B. Cheney, vice president of the United States, be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors; that the evidence hereinafter set out sustains six articles of impeachment justifying immediate removal from office; that said articles shall be adopted by the House of Representatives; and that the same shall be endorsed by the Senate, to wit:

ARTICLE I
In his conduct of the office of the vice president of the United States, Richard B. Cheney, contrary to his oath to faithfully execute the office of vice president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws of this nation be upheld, has deliberately obstructed the nation’s intelligence-gathering capacity, in that:

(1) During the several months preceding the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, the vice president endeavored to bypass the role of the Central Intelligence Agency as the nation’s principal filter of raw intelligence, directing subordinates within the agency to “stovepipe” raw intelligence directly to his office.

(2) As a result of this policy, the vice president became privy to unanalyzed, unverified data that should not have been available to him, including documents that seemed to indicate that Saddam Hussein may have attempted to purchase yellowcake uranium from the African country of Niger in February 1999.

(3) Relying on these documents, and ignoring the CIA’s assessment that they were most likely fabrications, the vice president proceeded to publicize the Niger documents and encouraged the president to refer to them in his 2003 State of the Union address, deliberately obstructing the role of the CIA and promoting known forgeries to bolster his case for war.
(4) At the same time, acting personally and through his subordinates, the vice president conspired with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to create a substitute intelligence agency within the Pentagon, known as the Office of Special Plans, with instructions to contradict unfavorable information emerging from the CIA.

(5) Under this mandate, the Office of Special Plans sought to undermine the authority legally vested in the CIA, cultivating intelligence sources known to be discredited and embarking on extralegal “missions” to Iraq without consulting the nation’s legitimate intelligence services.

(6) In these distortions of the nation’s intelligence-gathering process, the vice president, acting personally and through subordinates, has obstructed the democratic institutions of the nation and undermined the rule of law.

In all of this, Richard B. Cheney has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as vice president and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

ARTICLE II
Using the powers of the office of the vice president of the United States, Richard B. Cheney, contrary to his oath to faithfully execute the office of vice president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws of this nation be upheld, has personally deceived the American people, in that:

(1) During the several months preceding the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, and thereafter, the vice president became aware that no certain evidence existed of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a fact articulated in several official documents, including:

(a) A report by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, concluding that “there is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons, or where Iraq has—or will—establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities.”

(b) A National Intelligence Estimate, compiled by the nation’s intelligence agencies, admitting to “little specific information” about chemical weapons in Iraq.

(c) A later section of the same NIE, admitting “low confidence” that Saddam Hussein “would engage in clandestine attacks against the U.S. Homeland,” and equally “low confidence” that he would “share chemical or biological weapons with al-Qa’ida.”

(d) An addendum by the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, asserting that Hussein’s quest for yellowcake uranium in Africa was “highly dubious” and that his acquisition of certain machine parts, considered by some to be evidence of a nuclear program, were “not clearly linked to a nuclear end use.”
(e) A report by the United States Department of Energy, stating that the machinery in question was “poorly suited” for nuclear use.

(2) Despite these questions and uncertainties, and having full awareness of them, the vice president nevertheless proceeded to misrepresent the facts in his public statements, claiming that there was no doubt about the existence of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq and that a full-scale nuclear program was known to exist, including:

(a) March 17, 2002: “We know they have biological and chemical weapons.”

(b) March 19, 2002: “We know they are pursuing nuclear weapons.”

(c) March 24, 2002: “He is actively pursuing nuclear weapons.”

(d) May 19, 2002: “We know he’s got chemical and biological…we know he’s working on nuclear.”

(e) August 26, 2002: “We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons… Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.”

(f) March 16, 2003: “We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.”

(3) At the same time, despite overwhelming skepticism within the government of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda—resulting in the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission that “no credible evidence” for such a link existed, and the CIA’s determination that Hussein “did not have a relationship” with Al Qaeda—the vice president continued to insist that the relationship had been confirmed, including:

(a) December 2, 2002: “His regime has had high-level contacts with Al Qaeda going back a decade and has provided training to Al Qaeda terrorists.”

(b) January 30, 2003: “His regime aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al Qaeda. He could decide secretly to provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorists for use against us.”

(c) March 16, 2003: “We know that he has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups, including the Al Qaeda organization.”

(d) September 14, 2003: “We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the ’90s, that it involved training, for example, on biological weapons and chemical weapons.”

(e) October 10, 2003: “He also had an established relationship with Al Qaeda—providing training to Al Qaeda members in areas of poisons, gases, and conventional bombs.”
(f) January 9, 2004: “Al Qaeda and the Iraqi intelligence services…have worked together on a number of occasions.”

(g) January 22, 2004: “There’s overwhelming evidence that there was a connection between Al Qaeda and the Iraqi government”

(h) June 18, 2004: “There clearly was a relationship. It’s been testified to. The evidence is overwhelming.”

(4) Through all of these misrepresentations, the vice president knowingly skewed the public’s perception of reality, clouded the nation’s ability to weigh evidence, and willfully disrupted the function of American democracy.

In all of this, Richard B. Cheney has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as vice president and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

ARTICLE III
In his conduct of the office of the vice president of the United States, Richard B. Cheney, contrary to his oath to faithfully execute the office of vice president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws of this nation be upheld, has deliberately embraced and sheltered a known criminal, to the great detriment of American policy, in that:

(1) During the months preceding the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, the vice president, acting personally and through his subordinates, granted special access to the Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi, relying on Chalabi for intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, despite an outstanding warrant for Chalabi’s arrest on charges of bank fraud in the nation of Jordan, grave concerns from the CIA about Chalabi’s credibility, and a 2002 British assessment that Chalabi was “a convicted fraudster.”

(2) As the initial stage of the war concluded and Chalabi’s claims proved false, the vice president nevertheless continued privately to champion Chalabi as a leader for the new Iraqi government, ignoring a litany of troubling accusations and events, including:

(a) May 19, 2004: The Department of Defense discontinues monthly payments to Chalabi, pending charges of fraud.

(b) May 20, 2004: U.S. troops, along with Iraqi forces, storm Chalabi’s home, seizing documents and computers for a criminal probe.

(c) June 2004: The New York Times reports that Chalabi has disclosed U.S. secrets to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

(3) When an employee of the Coalition Provisional Authority named Thomas Warrick voiced concerns about Chalabi to his superiors, the vice president intervened to demand that Warrick be fired, causing Warrick’s unique contributions to the occupation—including a series of prescient written warnings about the rise of insurgency—to be lost, and the nation’s ability to function at war compromised.
(4) As late as November 2005, the vice president continued to offer public support and safe harbor to Chalabi, inviting him to visit the White House and providing personal welcome to a known criminal.

In all of this, Richard B. Cheney has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as vice president and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

ARTICLE IV
In his conduct of the office of the vice president of the United States, Richard B. Cheney, contrary to his oath to faithfully execute the office of vice president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws of this nation be upheld, has maintained an improper and unethical relationship with his former employers at Halliburton and has promoted its agenda and interests over those of the American people, in that:

(1) In September 2003, the vice president claimed to have “severed all my ties with the company” and to have “no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind,” where in truth he did, at that time, continue to earn more than $150,000 per year in delayed compensation from Halliburton, as well as a portfolio in excess of 230,000 stock options of the company, worth more than $10 million.

(2) Bolstered by this economic incentive to promote the interests of Halliburton, the vice president did choose to remain silent as the company was exposed in a series of financial scandals at the expense of the American people, including:

(a) February 2002: Halliburton is forced to pay $2 million after being charged by the Justice Department for fraud committed against the Pentagon during the vice president’s tenure as CEO.

(b) May 2002: The company is investigated by the SEC for fraudulent accounting practices and inflation of its stock price during the vice president’s tenure as CEO.

(c) March 2003: The company is investigated by a congressional committee for receiving favorable contracts from the Pentagon, outside normal review processes.

(d) May 2003: The company admits to having bribed a Nigerian official with millions of dollars in exchange for tax exemptions.

(e) December 2003: The company is found by the Defense Contract Audit Agency, a unit of the Pentagon, to have overcharged and defrauded the government of more than $100 million.
(f) January 2004: The company admits that its employees have accepted $6 million in kickbacks from a Kuwaiti company in exchange for a portion of U.S. government contracts.

(3) Through his silence on these and other scandals involving his former employer and source of several million dollars in assets, the vice president exhibited not only a failure of leadership but a lack of integrity that has tarnished the office of the vice president.

In all of this, Richard B. Cheney has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as vice president and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

ARTICLE V
Using the powers of the office of the vice president of the United States, Richard B. Cheney, contrary to his oath to faithfully execute the office of vice president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws of this nation be upheld, has granted improper and unlawful influence over national policy to an anonymous cabal of corporate lobbyists, in that:

(1) In January 2001, the vice president did oversee a secret task force composed of corporate lobbyists and executives from the oil, gas, coal, and nuclear-energy sector, known collectively as the National Energy Policy Development Group, instructing them to meet regularly and develop the nation’s energy policy.

(2) By conducting these meetings in secret, the vice president did endeavor to impart influence to corporate interests without public knowledge, eclipsing not only the oversight function of Congress generally but the specific role of the energy committees in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

(3) During the course of these secret meetings, the vice president allowed lobbyists representing the oil, coal, gas, and nuclear-energy industries to compose, word-for-word, the national energy policy adopted by the Department of Energy, in gross violation of the public trust and all ethical norms.

In all of this, Richard B. Cheney has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as vice president and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

ARTICLE VI
In his conduct of the office of the vice president of the United States, Richard B. Cheney, contrary to his oath to faithfully execute the office of vice president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws of this nation be upheld, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice, in that:

(1) On March 25, 2002, and thereafter, the vice president did willfully disobey court orders to identify the members of the National Energy Policy Development Group.
(2) In September 2002, and prior thereto, the vice president did also refuse requests by Representatives Henry Waxman and John Dingell, as well as the Government Accountability Office, to release transcripts and papers produced by the aforementioned group.

(3) In both of these cases, the requested names and documenting papers were deemed necessary to resolve by direct evidence fundamental, factual questions relating to the vice president’s reliance on special interests and corporate lobbyists in the formation of national policy, and the release of said papers was ordered by the United States District Court and upheld by the United States Court of Appeals.

(4) In refusing to produce said names, transcripts, and papers, and by continuing to keep the deliberations of the National Energy Policy Development Group secret, the vice president, substituting his judgment for the authority of the federal courts and ignoring the doctrine of congressional oversight, did assume to the office of the vice president authority, functions, and judgments forbidden by the United States Constitution.

In all of this, Richard B. Cheney has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as vice president and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

Wil S. Hylton is a GQ correspondent.

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Gordon C. Bennett: Don't omit the issue of Cheney's advocacy of torture in the treatment of detainees, which contravenes the Geneva Conventions and the traditional American values that have made us a respected nation until now, when today we are perceived as brutal and indifferent to the opinions of humankind.

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