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The Case For Impeaching President George W. Bush

From the radio newsmagazine
Between The Lines
Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Oct. 30, 2006


Below are 2 transcripts on the case for impeaching President George W. Bush, plus information on how to obtain books, audio CDs and video DVDs of "The Case for Impeachment" with journalist David Lindorff and Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Barbara Olshansky, now available on our website at

To see a streaming GoogleVideo archive of this talk, produced by Nick Pasquariello, producer at Bridgeport, Conn. Cablevision public access, visit our homepage at


Former Watergate-Era Congresswoman Advocates Impeachment of Bush for Violations of U.S. Constitution

Interview with former U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, D-N.Y., conducted by Scott Harris

Listen in RealAudio:

As the prospects dimmed for continued Republican control of Congress in November's election, President Bush signed into law the controversial Military Commissions Act of 2006, affecting the treatment of U.S. held terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Naval base in Cuba and elsewhere. In comments made before signing the bill on Oct. 17, President Bush dedicated the legislation to the memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11th.

The bill permits the exclusion of a defendant from his trial if classified evidence is being presented, and the admission of hearsay and coerced statements as evidence. The law prohibits a detainee from filing a habeas corpus petition challenging the legality of their detention in federal court. Another feature of the bill retroactively provides immunity from prosecution for U.S. personnel who engaged in harsh interrogation tactics from September 2001 to December 2005, while giving the president unilateral power to decide what constitutes a violation of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions outlawing torture and cruel treatment.

The law also expands the definition of "unlawful enemy combatant" to include anyone who directly or indirectly supports hostilities against the United States and gives the president the power to declare U.S. citizens enemy combatants, subject to indefinite detention. The law is already being challenged for what critics maintain are serious violations of the U.S Constitution. Between the Lines' Scott Harris spoke with former four-term New York congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, who served on the House judiciary Committee during impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon. She explains why she opposes the Military Commissions Act and why she believes the president should be impeached.

ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: It's shameful, and it's unconstitutional certainly in parts. Congress has no right under the Constitution to abolish habeas corpus. We're not in the middle of an insurrection and we're not being invaded at the moment. It's a very sad commentary about where we are as a nation. There's no question that Abu Ghraib and the mistreatment of detainees -- as President Bush himself has acknowledged -- has inflamed anti-American feeling, has endangered our troops and endangered the country. It was the wrong thing to do. One of the most egregious things about this act is something that very few people have spoken about.

But, I wrote an op-ed piece about it in the Chicago Sun-Times several weeks ago pointing out that the bill actually contains a pardon for President Bush and any of his top-level people who may have violated the War Crimes Act of 1996. There is a federal statute which makes it a federal crime -- in some instances, punishable by the death penalty -- for U.S. officials or any U.S. national -- to mistreat a detainee in violation of certain provisions of the Geneva Conventions. Now we know that the president of the United States was concerned about this, his top counsel, (now Attorney General) Alberto Gonzalez was concerned about this as early as January 2002, if not before. And their present effort to alleviate themselves and others of liability for criminal acts is just breathtaking because, if crimes were committed, and the president has indicated that one of the purposes of the military tribunal bill is to give immunity to the CIA interrogators -- but if they get immunity, so do the people who gave them orders, who conspired with them, who aided and abetted them, who authorized them, going way up to the very top under the War Crimes Act. Well, if the president can commit a crime and then get Congress without debate, without discussion, without so much as a peep to give him immunity for that criminal act, then that makes a total mockery of rule of law in the United States. Presidents have to obey the law. If they violate the law, before they're ever given immunity, this is something that deserves national debate, national discussion, what laws were broken, when, where and how the president refused to disclose instructions he gave to the CIA with respect to mistreatment or treatment of detainees.

As bad as everything else is in that bill, it all stems from lawlessness at the very top. You cannot have a country that's become a banana republic with presidents violating a law and getting a pardon from Congress and then going off to do the same thing all over again. This is not the United States of America, it shouldn't be.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Elizabeth Holtzman, if the Democrats should take the House of Representatives, can they in any way reverse this immunity that's been signed into law?

ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: I've begun to research that issue. It's not 100 percent clear that it can be reversed. Or can't be reversed. I just don't know the answer to that yet. Even if it's not reversed, there's no reason that the president can't be impeached for his misconduct, and the role he played with respect to the mistreatment of detainees, the failure to hold those accountable who were responsible for the mistreatment of detainees, including those at the highest levels.

BETWEEN THE LINES: I'd like your comment on House Minority Leader's Nancy Pelosi's attitude on the question of impeachment. She says the Democratic-led Congress, under her, as Speaker of the House, they plan to follow a positive, constructive agenda of legislation maybe reversing some of what the Congress has done over the last decade. But she seems to be very vocally dismissing the idea of impeachment. What's your take on that?

ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: Well, what I gather from this is, I go back to Watergate, when the Democrats were in control in the House and the Senate, and Richard Nixon had won his presidency re-election by one of the largest landslides in the history of the United States. And information began to come out -- he was re-elected in November 1972, starting in mid-January of 1973. Information came out that implicated the president in the Watergate break-in. And more and more information came out. And then information came out about the president's secret bombing of Cambodia. And it wasn't until the people basically got up and said, "Enough is enough!" and forced Congress to act, that the Democratically-controlled Congress began impeachment and an impeachment inquiry.

And so, if the Democratic leadership or other Democrats don't do anything about impeachment, it won't be surprising in terms of the historical past. But, if people want impeachment, it's going to happen.

Former four-term New York congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, is the author of "The Impeachment of George W. Bush: A Handbook for Concerned Citizens," published by Nation books.

Related links:

- "Bush seeks retroactive immunity for violating War Crimes Act"
- "Torture and Accountability"
- "The Impeachment of George W. Bush"
- "Calls for the Impeachment of George W. Bush Rests On a Litany of High Crimes and Misdemeanors"
- "House Resolution 635," articles of impeachment by U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., introduced Dec. 18, 2005.
- "The Case for Impeachment"
- Center for Constitutional Rights at
- National Lawyers Guild
- Human Rights Watch
- Amnesty International
- People for the American Way at (202) 467-4999 or visit their website at


Calls for the Impeachment of George W. Bush Rests On a Litany of High Crimes and Misdemeanors

Interview with journalist David Lindorff, and Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Barbara Olshansky, conducted by Scott Harris

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With President Bush's standing in public opinion polls hovering around 37%, according to a CBS News poll, with 69 percent saying the country is on the wrong track (poll statistics updated since the interview was conducted), this November's mid-term congressional election could be decisive in moving the nation in a new direction. The Republicans who control both houses of Congress are unwilling to hold the president and his administration accountable for many actions that have raised questions about White House abuse of power. No serious investigations have been held into allegations that the president lied America into war with Iraq, violations of international law including the holding of detainees without charge or trial, and the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody, war profiteering, illegal surveillance of US citizens and the government's failure to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Often citing the September 11th terrorist attacks as justification, President Bush has used his power as commander-in-chief to authorize extraordinary measures in the U.S. and abroad that a growing number of observers believe violate the Constitution. A Zogby poll conducted in January 2006 found that 52 percent of those surveyed supported impeachment if President Bush engaged in unlawful warrantless spying on U.S. citizens.

Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with journalist Dave Lindorff and Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Barbara Olshansky, who is representing the 300 detainees at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Together, they are the authors of the book, "The Case for Impeachment, The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office." Lindorff and Olshansky outline what they maintain are the high crimes and misdemeanors committed by President Bush that they believe are grounds for his impeachment.

DAVID LINDORFF: We have five chapters of impeachable violations (in the book), all documented , and we only went for the ones that we thought were solid cases that could be traced directly to the president. So therefore, we didn't, for example, include election fraud because nobody's really been able to lay that at the president's door clearly. And I could just run down the list . I sort of re-categorized them into about nine areas. One is initiating the war of aggression against a nation that posed no immediate threat to the U.S. and organizing a conspiracy to trick the American people and Congress into an illegal war. Both of those are, by the way, the highest war crime you can commit. They are called crimes against peace, and a conspiracy for a crime against peace under the Nuremberg charter, which is also a crime under U.S. law, because the U.S. adopted the Geneva Conventions. The second one is approving and encouraging, in violation of U.S. and international law, the use of torture, kidnapping and extraordinary rendering, of prisoners of war captured in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the course of the so-called war on terror.

The third is illegally stripping the right of citizenship and protection of the Constitution from American citizens , denying them the fundamental right to have their cases heard in court, to hear the charges against them, to be judged in public court by a jury of their peers, to have access to a lawyer and so on.

The fourth, is authorizing the spying on American citizens and their communications by the National Security Agency and other U.S. police and intelligence agencies in violation of the First and Fourth Amendments and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Fifth, is obstructing investigation into and covering-up knowledge of the deliberate exposing of the identity of a U.S.-CIA undercover operative and possibly conspiring in that initial outing itself.

Sixth, is obstructing investigations of the 9/11 attacks and lying to investigators from the Congress and the bipartisan 9/11 commission. These are actions that come perilously close to treason.

Number seven is violating the due process and other constitutional rights of thousands of citizens and legal residents by rounding them up and disappearing or deporting them without hearings.

Number eight is abuse of power, undermining the Constitution and the violation of the presidential oath of office by deliberately refusing to administer over 750 acts, newly passed into law by Congress, actions that if left unchallenged, would make the Congress a vestigial body and the president a dictator.

And finally, criminal negligence in failing to provide American troops with adequate armor before sending them into a war of choice. Criminal negligence in going to war against a weak Third World nation without any planning for postwar occupation and reconstruction. Criminal negligence in failing to respond to a known and growing crisis in the storm-blasted city of New Orleans. And criminal negligence, finally , in failing to act, and in fact actively obstructing efforts by other countries and American state governments, to deal with the looming crisis of global warming.

So, that's a pretty good list of serious crimes.

BETWEEN THE LINES: It seems that you have many in the leadership of the Democratic party downplaying the whole idea of impeachment. I know House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi basically says, this is going to backfire on the Democrats if they talk about impeachment before the election, that this will only serve to energize the Republican hardcore, right-wing base that will come out to the polls, motivated by the fact that they don't want to see their president impeached.

DAVID LINDORFF: The Democrats, especially the leadership -- the Democrats, including Pelosi and (Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid) -- are totally out of touch with the Democratic base. And, I think they're even afraid of the Democratic base. The really pathetic thing about this is that they're afraid that impeachment will rally the Republican base. When is the last time the Democrats have even tried to rally their own base? It seems clear to us that impeachment will do exactly that. It will rally the Democratic base.

A Zogby poll found that as many as 80 percent of Democrats think that the president should be impeached, and 53 percent of all Americans, and a clear majority of independents think that. So the Democrats are nuts if they don't make impeachment a centerpiece for the November elections.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What are your thoughts on that Barbara?

BARBARA OLSHANSKY: I just have the most basic response to Nancy Pelosi and others, which is: How could you possibly be afraid of making these arguments when they are the arguments that created this country? They represent the courage that the founders of this country had to bring about a great democracy. And all we're saying is, have the faith, have the courage to do again what they did, to stand up to a president that disregards the Constitution and disregards what the Supreme Court said and disowns the treaties that it has made with the rest of the world. And my goodness, if we the people ever owned the moral high ground in this discourse, it is right now in history. You know, that language, "We the People," what does it mean in terms of accountability?

For me, working on the Guantanamo case has just been this incredible eye-opening experience about how far the United States is willing to go from its own military law, from humanitarian law and the most basic human rights law. And it didn't matter that when we won in the Supreme Court, that the people on our side were generals and admirals, who were saying to Bush: "Don't do this, don't disregard the Geneva Conventions." This is the promise we made to humanity. And what we ended up seeing was a nightmare, and a nightmare that got exported from Guantanamo to Iraq.

For more reading on the case for impeachment, visit Dave Lindorff's website at:

Related links:

* "Harper's Magazine Editor Lewis Lapham Warns U.S. Constitution is Under Attack" at

* "House Resolution 635," articles of impeachment by U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., introduced Dec. 18, 2005. Creating a select committee to investigate the Administration's intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment.

* "The Case for Impeachment," online excerpt by Lewis Lapham, Harper's Magazine, March 2006 "The Impeachment of George W. Bush," by Elizabeth Holtzman, The Nation Magazine, Jan. 30 2006

* Amnesty International

* Center for Constitutional Rights


Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 40 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending Oct. 27, 2006. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Anna Manzo and Scott Harris.

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