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High Crimes and Misdemeanors


Published on Saturday, June 18, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
by Ken Sanders

Under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, "The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." Any reasonable interpretation of the Constitution's impeachment clause, and the historical application thereof, leads to the inescapable conclusion that articles of impeachment should be brought against President Bush for his commission of high crimes against the United States.

It is the consensus among legal and constitutional scholars that the phrase "other high Crimes and Misdemeanors" refers to "political crimes." While not necessarily indictable crimes, "political crimes" are great offenses against the federal government. They are abuses of power or the kinds of misconduct which can only be committed by a public official by virtue of the unique power and trust which he holds. Thus, high crimes and misdemeanors refer to major offenses against our very system of representative democracy. Likewise, high crimes and misdemeanors can be serious abuses of the governmental power with which the President has been trusted.

In the case of Iraq, it is becoming harder and harder to deny that Bush engaged in official misconduct that caused serious and likely irreparable injury to the United States.

Take, for instance, the increasingly notorious Downing Street Memo. According to the Memo, nearly one year before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to disarm Saddam of his mythical weapons of mass destruction, at the White House "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Bush and his apologists dismiss the Memo as meaningless and accuse those deluded enough to find meaning within it of rehashing old arguments. However, aside from dismissing or simply ignoring the Memo, the Bush administration has made no attempt at an innocent explanation for the claim that it "fixed" the intelligence to fit its Iraq policy.

In fact, the Bush administration has never explicitly denied that the intelligence on Iraq was "fixed." The only senior government official to make such an unequivocal denial is Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister. However, while Blair did deny that the intelligence was "fixed," he did not endeavor to explain why such a claim made its way into an official British government document.

An explanation for the Bush administration's reluctance to address the Memo head-on and deny outright its claims of fixed intelligence can be gleaned from circumstantial evidence. It is commonly (and mistakenly) accepted that the false claims about Iraq's WMD were solely the result of a massive intelligence failure. Indeed, two purportedly independent commissions, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Commission on Intelligence Capabilities of the U.S. regarding Iraq's WMD, both determined that the White House and Pentagon were innocent victims of bad intelligence.

Whether or not the findings of those commissions are accurate or supportable is an argument for another time. What is telling about both commissions, however, is what they specifically did not investigate: whether the Bush administration manipulated or otherwise misused the "bad" intelligence. In the case of the Commission on Intelligence, a body created by the White House, it was not authorized by the White House to investigate the use of the Iraq intelligence. That issue was expressly out of bounds. In the case of the Senate Intelligence Committee, its Republican members circled wagons and insisted that any inquiry into the White House's use of the intelligence be deferred for a later date. That deferral continues.

The White House clearly has something to hide.

Regardless of what Bush is scrupulously trying to conceal, during the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, Bush openly lied about Iraq's nuclear capabilities on no fewer than four separate occasions. Bush knowingly and deliberately manipulated, inflated, and "fixed" the intelligence he was given in order to inflame the nation's passions and fraudulently bolster support for his war.

There is precedent for impeaching President Bush for the high crimes and misdemeanors of involving the country in armed conflict through fraudulent means. Take the case of William Blount, the first federal impeachment in U.S. history. Blount, an original U.S. senator from Tennessee, attempted to incite the Cherokee and the Creek to displace the Spanish from what is now Florida and Louisiana. Blount intended to then sell the land to the British. When the plot was exposed, the House of Representatives leveled articles of impeachment against Blount, asserting that Blount committed high crimes and misdemeanors by undertaking a course of conduct that threatened American neutrality and peace, and potentially violated international treaties.

Clearly, the acts of President Bush regarding Iraq are far more egregious than those of Blount. Not only did Blount's scheme never come to fruition, Blount's machinations did not result in the military invasion of a sovereign nation, in violation of U.S. treaty obligations and international law.

Take also the case of President Richard Nixon. The articles of impeachment brought against him in 1974 alleged serious abuses of presidential powers. The articles alleged that Nixon used government agencies, including the F.B.I., C.I.A., I.R.S., and the Office of the President itself, to engage in a series of unlawful acts for political gain. Thus, Nixon was accused of, among other things, abusing his position as President in order to undermine the democratic process.

In the case of the Iraq war, Bush similarly abused his position as President by lying to the public and to Congress, as well as the United Nations, about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Bush "fixed" and falsified intelligence in order to obtain the Congressional authority he needed to invade Iraq, thereby undermining the democratic process and injuring the constitutional system of government. Bush engaged in these acts of wrongdoing to enhance his political influence and to enrich corporate entities with which he and his cronies had financial ties.

The impeachment of President Clinton, by contrast, did not involve an abuse of presidential power. Rather, the impeachment of Clinton arose from his extramarital affair and his subsequent perjury and obstruction of justice in his grand jury and civil deposition testimony. As acknowledged by the Senate in its decision to acquit Clinton of both the articles of impeachment brought by the House of Representatives, there was no evidence that Clinton's personal misconduct constituted a misuse of presidential power or injured the constitutional system of government. A national embarrassment to be sure, but not an abuse of presidential power.

Whether or not one considers the Clinton impeachment a legitimate constitutional exercise or a vindictive partisan sham, it serves as a precedent for impeachment of the President. If lying in legal proceedings regarding fellatio by a portly intern warranted articles of impeachment, then repeatedly lying to the American public and Congress, as well as fabricating intelligence -- acts of fraud which have resulted in thousands of dead and wounded Americans, and tens of billions of dollars in deficit spending -- ought to warrant the same.

Fortunately for Bush, both the House and Senate are controlled by his Republican supporters and apologists, thereby guaranteeing that he will never be held accountable under the Constitution for the irreparable damage he has done to this country.

Talk about getting away with murder.

Ken Sanders (tkensand@yahoo.com) is an attorney in Tucson, Arizona. Additional samples of his writing can be found on the blog: www.politicsofdissent.blogspot.com

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Ewan Hermon

I am very angry not only at the Bush administration but at the timid and complicit mainstream media. I have an appeal for all of us who are fed up with the media. The commercial considerations that play an important role in the media timidity must be used as a tool against the media. I suggest that we boycott all products that are advertised in the media that we feel are failing in their journalistic duties. More importantly, we should let the advertisers know that we shall no longer buy their products until they stop advertising with that particular channel or show.

I agree with your frustration with the media. In fact, I've been stressed to find any updates to this situation at all in any of the major news outlets.

What it will take is for us to contact our members of congress and not allow them to let these charges go unanswered. That in itself will force the media to cover this, one of the most heinous crimes ever committed by a US President.

We must be patient, but never lose focus on the goal - to hold the Bush Administration responsible for the lies that cost so many lives.

Ewanherman, you are right. Money is the only thing these people understand. They care less about the truth, the news or their customers. What they do care about is the bottom line. If they start to lose money because they are busy with entertainment news instead of good old fashion investigative news then and only then will we see some action.

Ken: If lying about fallatio by a portly intern was enough to get a vote of Impeachment by Congress against Clinton, then "Ass Kissing" and "Brown Nosing" by portly Congress People and their collusion with Bush in his supposed fabrication of lies to plunge us into war, should warrant the same articles of Impeachment, of not only Bush and Cheney, but maybe even all those elected and appointed officials who knew the truth and went along with the fabrication. If I as a lowly citizen knew, but had no proof, that the Intelligence was "being fixed around the policy". Many politicians knew this and had the proof to boot, and still voted for the resolution giving Bush a free hand.

Just watching the Conyers hearing compelled me to immediately write to my Representative.

It was sure a revolutionary [mind changing] experience for me and my staunch Republican neighbors. After the hearing we were compelled to write our Republican Representative in Congress, Mark Green. Here's what I sent him, I hope all Americans [those asleep as well as awake] follow suit and contact their CongressPerson.

Dear Congressman Green:
I am one of your constituents. I voted for you. I am 62 and recently [more or less] retired and living in our family home outside of Eagle River, on Catfish lake. We have owned homes on this lake since 1937. I am generally conservative but do not necessarily support everything that the Republicans do. From the beginning I was not a supporter of our going to war against Iraq. I wanted the government and the nation to engage in a national dialogue about ,"why anyone would attack us in such a viscious manner'. I thought that we were involved in some bait and switch conspiracy to blame 9/11 on whoever we viewed our enemies to be at the time, namely Iraq. I viewed the impatience of the Bush administration with the UN weapons inspectors and the culmination of their process to be childish. A tantrum in the check out line of the super market of global life, against a parent who was saying no candy or gum now, when you get home you can have some low fat yogurt. The Bush administration wanted their candy and gum now and were going to mau mau the parent/congress/nation until they got their sugar fix or the parent was going to pay, and pay dearly.
Everyone caved in. Even half of the congressional Democrats voted to give the President the authority to go to war.....to strike preemptively. A big mistake. And everybody laid down, including the so called liberal press. No one asked the appropriate questions..... including you, the press, John Kerry, Jimmy Carter, Hillary Clinton, Tommy Franks, Leonard Zinn, and the nation. Nor did I, nor any member of my family.
From the day after the attack of 9/11 when our leaders in Washington immediately began talking about Iraq, [ I thought a bait and switch plan was afoot] I suspected that Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, et al were trying to use the events of 9/11 to achieve other objectives rather than go after the perpetrators of 9/11.
Over the course of my career, I have worked at every level of government. I know how government works. I know that there is a constant push and pull that goes on between career beaurocrats and elected officials. I know that politicians win all the battles and the beaurocrats win all the wars. Politicians come and go, beaurocrats are forever. Maybe this is as it should be.....it certainly is the way it's been.
So tonight I watched a CSPAN 2 replay [just by chance] of the John Conyers hearing on the Downing Street memos. I don't know how many of those Democrats, [I call them Dumbocrats], who testified or asked questions during that hearing had voted for the resolution. I suspect half of them had, but no one asked them how they had voted. They were seeking the limelight ,through situational ethics, trying to jump on the latest horse that would, they hoped, bring down our President.
Anyway, apart from that, I found the testimony of those who testified and those who asked questions of the experts to be one of the most fascinating civic lessons I had ever seen on television. Staged as it was, in the small room that they were given,[relegated to, by the majority who controls congress] with 11 interrupting floor calls for simultaneous votes, it was clear that both sides were playing politics with this issue.
But the burning issue still remains, apart from all the games that can be played around or about it. Was the intelligence twisted, creamed, or fabricated so that 1,700 plus of our young people and thousands more Iraqi lives have been lost as an aftermath of a collection of lies? As my Representative I charge you with the responsibility to find out. I further charge you with the responsibility to impeach, remove from office or position, and/or convict of a felony, all those found to be accomplices to this tragedy, if in fact through a congressional investigation, culpability is verified.
If the Downing Street memos have no basis in fact, but are merely a rendition of opinion of Mr. Dearlove, [what a name] and others at this top secret British meeting, then I hope the investigation of the congress determines this. I need to know and you're my representative who can find out.
So please do your job.....seek the truth....it will set us all free. This is not a threat but rather a promise, if you don't, you will loose my vote and all those I influence in your next run for re-election. This I promise you. Looking forward to your response.
Sincerely, your constituent, John H. Higgins

The letter that Rep Conyers drafted to the president asking that he give explanation of this Downing Street memo was the beginning. He can't do it alone. He needs all of our help if anything is going to get done. I signed it I hope you guys are also signers. John H Higgins, I hope you signed it as well. You seem to want to get to the bottom of this as much as the rest of us. I wrote to both my Senators and my Representative to let them know I wanted them to fight with Rep. Conyers on this. One of my Senators is up for re-election in 2006. I do hope she is paying attention. Times are so ugly right now; the days of automatic re-election are over. These people are going to have to earn their keep from now on!

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