By Donna Norton, Sonoma County PDA
On January 25th, I had a telephone conversation (40 mins +) with a legislative assistant in Conyers' office regarding impeachment. He had obviously been well-instructed on how to express their current policy. Our conversation included both Bush and Cheney, and took some strange turns, but this is basically the stand they're taking:
* Impeachment's not necessary. The next election will take care of EVERYTHING. Just ELECT DEMOCRATS. (This chorus was repeated throughout our discussion.)
* A sitting President is not subject to court actions. Nothing in the Constitution says a President is subject to the law. He finally conceded this remains an "unsettle" question in the courts. (I insisted on documentation to support his statements, and he emailed me a Congressional report, 1978 "CRS Report for Congress" #98-186 A, on impeachment, about 30 pgs.)
* Congress does not have an OBLIGATION or duty to investigate or take any action to prevent a President from breaking the law or abusing his powers. It's totally up to THEIR DISCRETION.
* It's okay for their decision to be based on party politics rather than Constitutional considerations because the decision is solely theirs to make.
* The courts can follow up with any illegal acts of the President or Vice-President AFTER they're out of office, and all will be fine.
* Correcting power-abuse really has no meaning because power is what it's all about. They all abuse it. So what? It's just politics.
We both agreed that according to what he was telling me, it boils down to the following:
A sitting President is not subject to the law as long as he remains in office. He can CONTINUE to break laws as long as he remains in office. He can only be removed DURING his term of office (and therefore become subject to the law) through impeachment. Only Congress can impeach, and it's solely up to their DISCRETION. So, as long as Congress successfully blocks the impeachment process, they are willfully allowing the President to remain completely outside the law, condoning that principle, and, in effect, shielding him from being removed from office so that he will be subject to the law and can be prosecuted. Congress has no OBLIGATION to intervene.
The aide seemed not the least bit disturbed by the gravity or import of my conclusions. It is, after all, just politics. And, by the way, electing Democrats to office will take care of everything (just in case I forgot to mention that).