[Note Rep. Zoe Lofgren's phone number is (202) 225-3072, and fax (202) 225-3336]
Report on SVIC Meeting with Rep. Zoe Lofgren for Impeachment Hearings, 22 February 2008
(Note: the quotes here come from our memories and notes of the meeting, and are not meant to be literal quotations.)
On 22 February 2008 ten members of Silicon Valley Impeachment Coalition (SVIC) met with House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D, Ca-16) and her legal aide JoAnn Yamani to discuss impeachment hearings for Vice President Cheney. Rep. Lofgren suggested this meeting as a follow-up to SVIC's meeting with her in January when we presented a strong case for impeachment hearings. Between our two meetings with Lofgren, she reissued a 1974 report, Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment, and she submitted a letter to Rep. John Conyers asking him to introduce the report and hold hearings on it. SVIC viewed these developments as deliberate steps forward towards impeachment. In order to better understand her position on impeachment hearings, we decided to let her do more talking during this meeting.
We thanked her for making the report available to the public and to the Judiciary Committee, and asked her to follow-up with John Conyers to hold a discussion of this report with the full committee. When we asked her if there is anything we can do to move it forward, Lofgren replied "Conyers is not subject to pressure. He does what he thinks is right. If you want to write letters, we value what our constituents say. He listens to his lawyers, and I don't know what they think. They are very conservative." At this point in the meeting it's evident to us either Lofgren is holding her cards very close, or else we overestimated her support for impeachment hearings.
We then directly asked her what her reservation is about signing on to Wexler's call to hold hearings. Lofgren repeated again what she said at the last meeting and what has puzzled us in so many of her letters, that she's still not sure if she sees the evidence. As an example she referred to a classified report that she has authorized access to, saying that while she didn't like what she saw in the report, she saw no evidence that it was motivated by bad intentions, "I'm sure the original intention was to protect the country". Rather than countering with the principles set forth in the Constitution, we let her continue stating her reasons for issuing the 1974 report. "Except for John Conyers and myself, the rest of the committee has only had experience with the Clinton impeachment. So I want them to read this."
Her not wanting to repeat the circus of Clinton 's impeachment is laudable, but the bases for impeachment hearings against Cheney are hardly frivolous. And the way in which momentum is growing amongst the public and Congress, as led by Rep. Wexler, hearings do not appear to be in danger of deteriorating into a political attack. Is it believable that this is a more serious concern to Lofgren than is protecting the Constitution?
Lofgren sidestepped our concerns about this administration's Constitutional violations. When we mentioned the separation of power, she again turned to the 1974 report, saying it "contains a lot about balance of power." Rather than addressing the abuses, however, she seemed to merely disregard the White House's premise upon which those overreaching executive powers were based. Lofgren dismissively paraphrased the contents of the forty-two page white paper prepared by Attorney General Gonzales as "the President says 'I am the commander-in-chief and I don't have to follow the laws. I can do what I want.'" Lofgren then suggested the 2008 elections as a solution to restore the balance of power, "I believe this can be adjusted in the next administration". Throughout the meeting Rep. Lofgren repeatedly mentioned that the elections will solve the problems that we describe as Constitutional violations. We countered that you can't create a mandate for an issue that is not brought up in a campaign, and by not impeaching you are setting a precedent for abuse of power.
After the meeting, we had a lot of discussion about what Lofgren meant when she said impeachment is intended as a remedy against a rogue president, but that Bush does not fit that description. She had argued that his actions may have been done for legitimate reasons, and therefore often have had the approval of Congress. All the reasons she stated in the meeting for not supporting impeachment hearings appear to be merely excuses. Is Zoe Lofgren simply maintaining a neutral stance, knowing she'll play a key role if public pressure reaches the tipping point in support of impeachment hearings? Does Lofgren see the writing on the wall that impeachment hearings--brought on by other members of the Judiciary Committee--are inevitable with or without her support, if public pressure continues to grow? We do not know how close Lofgren is to supporting Wexler's call for hearings. Our conclusion is that impeachment hearings will become more likely as public support grows, and we intend to keep the pressure on Zoe Lofgren.
Many thanks from SVIC to all of those who stood in the rain with "HONK TO IMPEACH" and "CALL LOFGREN" signs outside the office during the meeting. We and Zoe could hear the honks of support from inside.