San Jose Mercury News (California)
June 17, 2005 Friday MO1 EDITION
SECTION: A; Pg. 14
LENGTH: 487 words
HEADLINE: Inquiry sought on prewar memo;
BYLINE: Mercury News Wire Services
Amid new questions about President Bush's drive to topple Saddam Hussein, several House Democrats urged lawmakers Thursday to conduct an official inquiry to determine whether the president intentionally misled Congress.
At a public forum where the word ''impeachment'' loomed large, Exhibit A was the so-called Downing Street memo, a prewar document leaked from inside the British government to the Sunday Times of London six weeks ago. Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, organized the event.
About 20 House Democrats and some anti-war activists squeezed into in a cramped Capitol basement room after Republicans, who control Congress, refused to hold an official hearing or to participate.
''Quite frankly, evidence that appears to be building up points to whether or not the president has deliberately misled Congress to make the most important decision a president has to make, going to war,'' said Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.
Misleading Congress is an impeachable offense, a point that Rangel underscored by saying he's already been through two impeachments. He referred to the impeachment of President Clinton for an affair with a White House intern and of President Nixon for Watergate, even though Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment.
Conyers pointed to statements by Bush in the run-up to invasion that war would be a last resort. ''The veracity of those statements has -- to put it mildly -- come into question,'' he said.
Recounting a meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair's national security team, the memo says the Bush administration believed that war was inevitable and was determined to use intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to justify the ouster of Saddam.
Cindy Sheehan, mother of a 24-year-old soldier killed in Iraq last year, said the Downing Street memo ''confirms what I already suspected: the leadership of this country rushed us into an illegal invasion of another sovereign country on prefabricated and cherry-picked intelligence.''
The White House refuses to respond to a May 5 letter from 122 congressional Democrats about whether there was a coordinated effort to ''fix'' the intelligence and facts around the policy, as the Downing Street memo says.
Later Thursday, Conyers and a half-dozen other members of Congress were stopped at the White House gate when they delivered petitions signed by 560,000 Americans who want Bush to provide a detailed response to the Downing Street memo. Eventually, White House aides retrieved the petitions and took them into the West Wing.
Across the street, in Lafayette Park, several hundred protesters gathered. Some held signs reading ''Bush Lied, Innocents Died,'' ''We impeached Clinton For Lying'' and ''Impeach for Peace.''
The Associated Press, Knight Ridder and New York Times contributed to this report.