Dennis Kucinich Talks Impeachment With Scoop.co.nz
An Interview with Dennis Kucinich, November 8, 2007
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Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich with a pocket version of the document he believes gives Americans the tool to protect themselves against excesses of executive power: the Constitution of the United States of America.
::Articles of Impeachment for Vice President Richard B. Cheney::
The articles of impeachment and supporting documents, including a description of the impeachment process, are here:
Scoop: Congressman Kucinich, one of the questions that I wanted to ask about the impeachment resolution is that you mention in the articles concepts like "deception" and "purposely manipulated", and I have an American lawyer neighbor who said to me that it makes it very difficult to prosecute—because an impeachment is a legal process rather than just a parliamentary process, so to speak. Is that so?
The first thing you have to remember, it is a constitutional process. And Article 2, Section 4 of our Constitution says that "The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." Now the idea of high crimes does not necessarily relate to the magnitude of the crime. It’s any crime. And anything that could be considered a misdemeanor. This is a section of the Constitution that was put in there by the Founders more than--almost 220 years ago, for the purposes of restraining executive abuse of power. And so, a high crime or a misdemeanor is essentially anything that Congress says it is.
Scoop: So can I just ask you, How does Congress decide what constitutes the crime and the misdemeanor?
Lying to Congress.
Scoop: No. But I mean, there are some…
Congress has broad latitude in determining what is a high crime or a misdemeanor.
Scoop: But what’s the process of it? Now it’s before the committee, and let’s say it comes back from the committee to the floor of the House. Then what happens?
The committee… a bill is introduced. It’s referred to committee, the committee holds hearings, calls witnesses, takes testimony under oath, and then a report is gathered. The report can be in the form of a separate bill or it can be actually an amendment to the impeachment resolution, and the report then goes back to the full House. If they’re recommending articles of impeachment, a majority vote in the House of Representatives would therefore impeach, could therefore impeach, the President or Vice President. And then the matter is sent over to the Senate for a trial. And the trial is conducted in the manner of trial procedures where witnesses are called, testimony is given under oath,--
Scoop: Actually on the floor of the Senate?
Oh, yeah. Absolutely. In the Senate itself. And you need two-thirds—
Scoop: In the House and the Senate?
No. You need a majority in the House, and you need two-thirds in the Senate to convict.
Scoop: Going back to the committee process, if people are called to testify and—given the difficulties that some committees have had for getting people to testify—is there still the option that people can be called and then say that they want to protect themselves and not testify?
All the constitutional provisions—which are protections that apply to all U.S. Citizens, including the right to refuse to testify under the grounds that you might incriminate yourself, that also relates to an impeachment procedure. You don’t suspend any constitutional provisions. People still have protections under law.
Scoop: Do you have any expectation of a timeframe for the resolution to be looked at?
No. I would say that there’s growing support across the United States for action to be taken to restrain the administrative abuse of power. It’s of great concern across this country.
Scoop: But within that… the House, for example, itself, I was recently heard Steny Hoyer the Majority Leader of the House say that he thought that the impeachment of Clinton—and this is the quote: "was a misuse of the majority’s power," and that was one of the reasons that he didn’t favor proceeding with an impeachment.
Well, all impeachments are not alike. All impeachments are not of the same magnitude, although any impeachment is very serious. In the case of President Clinton, he essentially was impeached for lying, but what he lied about was sex, sexual conduct. This President, and this Vice President, lied to get us into a war at the cost of nearly 4000 lives of our young men and women, at the cost of the lives of at least a million innocent Iraqi civilians, and an expense of between one and two trillion dollars. We’re borrowing money from China to prosecute this war.
There’s no comparison whatsoever. There’s a sense in which even the impeachment of Nixon, which was related to a very serious matter—illegal conduct (the break-in), the obstruction of justice, perjury, all those things—even that pales in comparison to what this administration has done. Just in so-called modern times, nothing has even remotely approached the level of violation of law and misconduct that would characterize this administration.
Scoop: The other negative thing that people bring to this, is that they say that if an impeachment goes ahead it’s very time-consuming and, I guess, focus-consuming, and that with an election coming up in 2008, I guess Democratic candidates want to have something of substance under their belt that they had passed in the previous year, and people are afraid, it seems, that an impeachment would take away the ability to do anything else. Is that the case? Does it take away the ability for anything else to be accomplished in the House and Senate?
What’s more important than saving our Constitution? What’s more important than protecting the rule of law? What could possibly be more important than the truth? The truth is that our country is in Iraq based on lies. At enormous cost. We are losing our domestic agenda to this war. So when anyone says, "We just don’t have the time for this, it’s a diversion, it’s a waste of time", what would it take? What kind of an offence would it take for this President or Vice President to be subject to the correction of abuse of power which the impeachment process was designed to protect against.
When you think about it, this is not simply a question of checks and balances in a democracy. This is a question of our moral fiber. Who are we as a nation? Are we willing to take a stand for the law? Where does anything go? If anything goes, then we are in a condition where this administration is preparing to bomb Iran, drop 30,000-pound bombs on nuclear research labs, creating a humanitarian and ecological disaster. Then you see a continuing steady rollback of constitutional rights through eavesdropping and wiretapping and spying and gathering information and dossiers on honest, law-abiding citizens. Then you see a country where the wheels of the democracy are coming off. And so, this impeachment then becomes a means of saving the country, of stopping the loss of our liberties, which we’re surely headed towards if we keep going in the direction we’re going.
Scoop: Can I quickly—I know my time is probably up—but just quickly go back to the actual substance of the articles, to go back to "deception" and "purposely manipulated" and there are a number of…
Do you have a copy of it? I’d be glad to provide you with a copy?
Scoop: I have a copy. But what I’m trying to get to is that it’s easy to show that somebody said something in a news report…
Scoop: That’s all documented. But when it gets to "purposely" manipulated, how would you expect that to be tried in an impeachment process?
Just through the presentation of facts. The facts are that there were intelligence reports that were made that were at variance to statements that publicly were made. And they were made systematically. The administration is in a very difficult position to be able to say "We didn’t know" because they read the written intelligence reports. So what they did was to misuse the intelligence so that they could make it a cause for war when that’s not what it was at all. There was great doubt out there. The administration expressed no doubt. If you look at the statements of the Vice President: "Iraq has weapons." So he knew better.
Scoop: But given that intelligence reports are not something that are readily available and probably aren’t going to be made readily available, then that makes it difficult for the facts to be gotten at.
Not now, though, because all those reports are out anyway. There are many reports that became public that not simply cast doubt on the decisions that were made. Look, people can make mistakes. No-one should be impeached for making an honest mistake. You can’t do that, otherwise the government wouldn’t exist. People make mistakes every day, and that isn’t what this is about. This is about a deliberate effort to deceive the American people by leading us into a war based on lies—the lies that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The Administration knew that it didn’t. That Iraq somehow was connected to Al Qaeda’s role in 9/11. The Administration knew that wasn’t true. And so, you have things that were manifestly untrue.
The most remarkable thing about what’s going on in the United States, is that while we’ve seen stories surface about torture and rendition, the truth of the matter is, most of the stuff has been out in the open. It’s just that very few people are willing to look at it and say, "Hey, wait a minute. What are you doing here? Why did you take us into this war? Why are you trying to take us into another war against Iran?" This is all out in the open. And the fact that they haven’t been called on it doesn’t mean that everything that’s out in the open cannot be looked at through the lens of national law, international law, and the Constitution.
And when you look at it, you start to say, "Well, wait a minute. This isn’t… you can’t do this. You can’t push this country into a war and systematically lie about the circumstances." They made the decision to go to war against Iraq before, long before…
Scoop: How could you prove that, for example?
Day after 9/11, there was a meeting of the National Security Council and this meeting is recounted in a book called Bush at War, by Bob Woodward. It’s page 49. He writes about how Donald Rumsfeld said—and I’m paraphrasing it—"Let’s use this"—meaning 9/11—"to go after Iraq." And then the administration deliberately conflated through their media, they deliberately conflated two separate conditions: 9/11 and Iraq. And they gradually, through a series of, through a structured series of messages had it so that half the American public at least believed that Iraq had something to do with 9/11, which it did not. And everybody knew it didn’t. We knew very quickly where those hi-jackers had come from. So, why did they do that?
See, THAT they did it isn’t disputed; WHY they did it is an interesting story in itself. That’s another reason why we need testimony under oath.
Scoop: Okay. Thank you. Unless you have anything else to add.
Well, just that really, this is about our Constitution. This is a document that has served us well for more than 200 years. It was… (looking through his copy of the Constitution) there are a number of dates that are instructive here. Seventeen hundred and eighty seven, we had the ratification of the seven articles, then September 1787, we had the setting of a meeting, Constitutional Convention, and then September 25, 1789 transmitted to the state legislatures twelve proposed amendments, two of which, having to do with Congressional representation and Congressional pay were not adopted. The remaining ten amendments became the Bill of Rights. That’s here, the first ten amendments. And then from there, they just kept adding them every few years.
But this provision of impeachment was put in the section that dealt with Article 2, the executive power. They really wanted to make sure that with all the power that they were giving the Chief Executive, that they wouldn’t abuse it. So they gave the ability to remove such a President and Vice President.
Good luck with your story.
Scoop: Thank you very much.
END OF INTERVIEW
::RESOURCES - The Clinton Impeachment::
Since Congressman Kucinich didn’t answer my question about whether an impeachment takes away the ability for anything else to happen in the house and Senate, I looked at the records of the House and Senate, where bills were still being debated and passed.
Here is the timeline, according to "The House", a history of the House of Representatives by its official historian, Robert V. Remini:
October 8, 1998: House passes a resolution 258 to 176 instructing the Judiciary Committee to examine the evidence and decide whether the President had committed impeachable offenses "or whether it was just something personal and not of national concern."
October 21, 1998: Congress adjourns for the election.
November 3, 1998: Mid-term Congressional election.
December 11-12, 1998: The Judiciary Committee votes 21-16 for impeachment.
December 18-19, 1998: Back in the House, there was a 13-hour debate with Democrats contending that a censure was the appropriate action. A procedural vote on that course of action was lost and the Democrats walked out of the Chamber in protest.
December 19, 1998: A crisis occurred within the Republican camp when their choice for Speaker-designate, Robert Livingstone, admitted he was also an adulterer and, on December 19, said he wouldn’t stand for Speaker and would resign from Congress within six months.
House adjourns until January 6. The Senate had already adjourned back on October 21 until the new session.
January 3, 1999: New Congress begins but House and Senate don’t meet until January 6.
January 5-6, 1999: Dennis Hastert is nominated and elected as Speaker of the House.
January 6, 1999: The House votes to impeach President Clinton, and creates a 13-member team to manage the impeachment trial in the Senate, all of them members of the Judiciary Committee.
January 7-February 9, 1999: Testimony and deliberation in the Senate, after which the Senate voted against removal of the President and acquitted him.
::The Clinton impeachment on the record::
The link below takes you to the rollcall votes of December 15, 1998 (when the Judiciary Committee reported on H. Res. 611) through February 12, 1999 (when the Senate voted), as they appear in the Congressional Record. In effect, it’s a very good summary of the short timeframe in which the impeachment happened:
If you want to see if other business was conducted during the impeachment, use the link below to go to the Congressional Record or the Daily Digest of 1998. The Daily Digest for December 19, 1998, includes the Articles of Impeachment for William Jefferson Clinton:
The Daily Digests and Congressional Records for 1999 are at:
--END OF STORY—