On July 20th, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers discussed the prospects for impeachment at greater length than has previously been widely reported. What has previously been known is that Congressman Conyers gave a speech in San Diego at which he said:"We need to have three Members of Congress from anywhere come and say, 'Congressman, if you... if you are willing to support an inquiry into a resolution of whether there had been acts of impeachability conducted by, the Vice President of, and the President of the United States, that could lead to High Crimes and Misdemeanors, then we will join you if you introduce such a resolution.'"
The transcript and video of these remarks are posted online: http://afterdowningstreet.org/node/25051
It has also been widely reported that three days later in Washington, D.C., Conyers told a group of citizens that he did not intend to pursue impeachment. About 47 of us were arrested that day in his office.
Now an interview has surfaced that Conyers gave on the evening of the 20th discussing impeachment at somewhat greater length. The audio and transcript are posted online: http://afterdowningstreet.org/node/25254
In this audio, Conyers asserts that Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has introduced articles of impeachment against President Bush. This appears to be false, as there has been no such bill entered into the Congressional Record, and Congressman Jackson's office has not announced it. Jackson did release a statement in support of impeaching Bush and Cheney, and he has failed thus far to sign onto H Res 333, articles of impeachment against Cheney. Jackson and Congressman Maurice Hinchey are the two Members of Congress who have recently advocated for impeachment without introducing or signing onto any articles. Whether Conyers' comment is based on conversations with Jackson in which suggested that he would introduce a bill I do not know.
When pressed on the question of what he, John Conyers, intends to do on impeachment, the Congressman hinted that he would act, but did not commit to anything:"Well, everybody’s entitled to their opinion. There are 435 members of Congress. Nancy Pelosi is entitled to hers, you know, because – she’s more than entitled to hers – she’s the Speaker, the first woman Speaker. But then I’m entitled to mine. So every member can do what they want. I don’t check with Nancy Pelosi to do what I feel I need to do when I introduce consideration of impeachment."
Asked "[W]hat is the 'contempt of Congress' – what are the consequences?" Conyers replied:
"Well, two. Route number one: the U.S. Attorney processes it and we order her to come before the Congress. Route number two: We send out the Marshals in the house and we arrest the person and bring them in in handcuffs."
Asked whether failure to impeach Cheney or Bush would set a precedent for future administrations, permitting them to operate outside the rule of law, Conyers claimed otherwise and expressed great optimism in the Judiciary Branch of Government to handle anything the Legislative Branch fails to address:
"Illegal precedent isn’t a basis to be followed. I mean, doing the wrong thing doesn't help here. Sooner or later this will get into the courts, and even with all the conservative people that Mr. Bush has appointed, we think this is pretty fundamental."
Conyers also offered an argument against impeachment. In an age in which Congress is clearly unable to pass any useful legislation over a presidential veto, much less have the Executive Branch obey the law, Conyers asserted that impeachment would somehow mean enacting even less legislation:
"[I]f we start an impeachment, I want everybody to know that means there’s no more legislation. The Congress will become divided, the White House will enter into this, pro and con, and that’s it."
Yet, even after making such a dubious case against impeachment, Conyers could not help making clear that he knows what the overwhelming case for impeachment is:"Well, the President has uh…We found out that he has signed over 750 Signing Statements, in which he takes Constitutional exception to the laws that he signed. We didn’t know about it. He was allowing warrantless wiretaps of American citizens. He was saying he can name anybody an Enemy Combatant, including American citizens. We didn’t know that. He was condoning torture of prisoners that we captured, which is very dangerous because they captured some of our troops as prisoners. We found out the FBI was signing National Security letters which require people to divulge personal interests without going to court, and that there were many more of these letters going on than we ever knew about. And, of course, we found out that there were no weapons of mass destruction to begin with, so to claim that America was being jeopardized by Iraq is almost laughable now. And then they outed a CIA agent, because they didn’t like her husband’s comments."
Global Voices for Justice, which interviewed Conyers also interviewed Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones: http://afterdowningstreet.org/node/25253 She offered a similar excuse for avoiding impeachment:"The impeachment process: time intensive, work intensive. This man has 400 and some days left in the Presidency. If we put all of our time and attention on that, then we can't focus in on getting out Iraq, we can't focus in on healthcare for our children, we can't focus in on education, we can't focus in on immigration issues, we can't focus… And I think that leadership has just made a decision that our time and energy and Dollars are better spent on issues that are important to the people of America. Even though we know that George Bush has done a poor job – a very very poor job – and his ratings are down. Think about how much time impeachment takes. It was a lot of months and a lot of time put into impeaching Bill Clinton. George Bush will be out of office before we'll ever have a chance to impeach him." Asked about setting a precedent for future administrations, Congresswoman Jones claimed that would not happen: "Allowing an Attorney General to not follow the Constitution. All of that. And even if we don't impeach him, history will write that. We will write that. The American people will have an opportunity to speak on that. Clearly I understand that people would like for there to be impeachment. But more importantly, there are things that I think we need to focus on, and history – and we will write what George Bush has done to our country….But see, the reality is that this is not true power. This is power that he is exercising, but ultimately the courts will determine that he has not that. I mean, just like you're talking about Cheney – he, all of sudden, he's not a part of the Executive Committee. And, believe me, this Congress is exercising oversight that has never been exercised. We've issued subpoenas…."
With all due respect, Congresswoman, they've been rejected. And pretending not to see that is not the way to get historians to remember it later. The crimes President Reagan committed in funding the Contras may have been illegal, but are you reading that in any history books in the schools in your district?