July 25 House Judiciary Committee’s Hearing on the Abuse of Executive Power by the Bush Administration Is Over as of 1:15 Pacific Daylight Time – 4:15 Eastern DT.
The Hearing Will Be Rebroadcast Tonight at 8:00 EDT on CSPAN
Submitted by davidswanson on Fri, 2008-07-25 / AfterDowningStreet.org [All times are EDT]
In this hearing we heard the case for impeachment from Kucinich, Wexler, Jackson-Lee, Johnson, Baldwin, Ellison, Hinchey, Holtzman, Anderson, Adams, and even Barr. We heard general support in that direction from Scott, Lofgren, and even Nadler (almost). And we heard Pence and Franks laughable and inculpating defenses along the lines of “Bush is not a crook.” Not bad for the first day’s work of the 110th Congress! Now, how about an impeachment hearing? We saw a lot of interest from committee members in the offense of signing statements, and also in the refusal to comply with subpoenas. Those are the issues that seem to have the most traction (and the least congressional complicity).
4:10 Nadler points out that whereas evidence was nonexistant or disputed, Bush asserted repeatedly that it was absolutely certain. Lundgren claims that Bush based that on the wisdom of intelligence agencies around the world [sic!]. [Even if that were true, isn’t it a problem that US intelligence was full of doubts and major counter-evidence?]
4:05 Lundgren claims Bush meant well. Nadler asks about evidence on edited NIE presented today. Lundgren dismisses it. Audience laughs. Lundgren asks for people to be removed. Conyers says that if anyone causes a disruption at the end of the hearing they will be forbidden to attend any more hearings.
3:58: Ellison is trying again to get Presser to agree there are grounds for impeachment on the matter of war lies. He agrees, only if Kucinich’s case is “proved.” Ellison asks Radkin too, but he pulls out the “they meant well and sadly turned out to be wrong, which is different from intentionally lying.” I’d like Kucinich to make the overwhelming case that Bugliosi has been making that they knowingly lied, but he instead makes the reasonable case that if all the assertions turn out to be false that is sufficient grounds for an impeachment inquiry.
3:55: Ellison is giving Kucinich another opportunity to speak about his article of impeachment on war lies, which he is doing at some length. Lundgren is the only Republican member still here. Conyers, Nadler, Scott, Lofgren, and Baldwin are here, and everyone is awake.
3:54 After Fein suggests a law banning use of funds for anything signing statemented, Ellison asks why the president couldn’t just signing statement that new law. Fein had no answer.
3:45 Red Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is here for first time and expressing concern of some sort about signing statements.
3:34 Baldwin raises danger of leaving Bush and Cheney unchecked for seven more months, in particular the possibility of an attack on Iran. What impact would an impeachment inquiry have on the possibility of attacking Iran? Anderson: wants a bill passed! (???) Bugliosi refuses to speculate.
3:30 Baldwin is bringing up John Nichols’ book and the Bill Moyers show he was on with Fein. She’s quoting Nichols account of presidential toolbox passing from president to president. And the toolbox now has more powers in it than ever before.
Lundgren is asleep now.
3:25 pm Rep Brad Sherman shows up for first time and says Congress has become mere advisors to White House. President won’t obey laws. Any law to fix the problem will be vetoed. To Fein: is nonfeasance an impeachable offense? Fein: the “take care that laws are faithfully executed” comes from English Bill of Rights … meaning Yes. Sherman is talking about signing statements. Sherman asks Holtzman if a prosecutor should bring a case if virtually certain of not getting a conviction? She says maybe.
Kucinich has gone out and come back with what is probably a stack of petition signatures in support of impeachment. Ellison is talking with Kucinich.
3:19 p.m. Rep Hank Johnson asks Presser about his testimony back in the day that if Clinton lied he should be impeached: if a president lied about taking a nation into war, would that be an impeachable offense? Presser says “you’d have to look into the circumstances….” Johnson turns to Holtzman, which is much more productive.
Nadler and Scott are both sleeping. No joke.
3:13 Rep Cohen asks Holtzman about what branch Cheney belongs to. Fein points out that a Senator has been impeached, so Cheney can claim he’s in the legislative branch and be impeached. Cohen asks Fein whether it would be socially beneficial to impeach, or more important to do other things as Rep Watt advises. Fein says that impeaching Nixon was greatly unifying. He also says that there is penty of time since no investigation is needed. The president has confessed to viiolating FISA (witnesses are now routinely accusing the president of crimes and calling him “the president” against the rules).
3:03 Rep. Wexler says that ignoring subpoenas, spying, and torture, are – pace Pence – not “mere policy differences”. Wexler expands on the subpoenas topic. Barr has left. Wexler wanted to ask him about statements he made in support of the rule of law during the Clinton impeachment. (Wexler may have been out of the room today when Barr came around in support of impeachment.) Rocky Anderson says Wexler is right, that we’re not just talking about policy, but about Constitutional issues. Now, says Rocky, is the time for Congress to assert its power. Wexler now asks Fein about Mukasey coming before the committee and refusing to honor subpoenas. Fein says that’s a clear impeachable offense on its own. Popular government can’t work if the public can’t know what its government is doing. You don’t need an investigation to impeach: you just vote. [Go, Bruce!] Liz Holtzman adds that the president [OOPS, WHO? Can you say that?] has refused to give Congress what it needs to do its job and obstructs the work of Congress. She recommends holding an impeachment inquiry, requesting the information again, and if it is not provided then impeaching.
NOTE: Pacifica is terminating its broadcast, but we all appreciate them carrying the hearing up to this point.
3:02 Rep. Pence appears to be filibustering on his opposition to impeachment, chewing up time for no apparent purpose, asking three-minute questions that get three-word responses because they are just obvious rants.
2:53 p.m. One of the Repubicans tried to cut Bugliosi off by claiming he was discussing classified information. (He was discussing the declassified 2002 NIE.) The groans from the audience shut him up. Nobody said a thing about the groaning. Bugliosi was permitted to keep speaking.
2:43 Sheila Jackson-Lee (I kid you not) is urging passage of a bill to correct the abuse of signing statements (who spots the weakness in this strategy?). But she’s now asking Fein to speak on war lies, and she’s suggesting it’s treason. And now she’s giving Bugliosi a chance to expand on his case (the familiar case in his book, which many in this room have never heard).
2:26 Lofgren is still pushing idea of a truth and reconciliation commission. And Schwartz is recommending the 9-11 Commission as a model [I may be tired but I’m not halucinating this.]
2:25 OK I’ve covered up my IMPEACH shirt because a friend thinks they’ll try to arrest me for wearing it.
2:16 Republican Rep. Louis Gohmert: The president is not a crook, really! And: Never trust a Muslim!
2:10 The Judiciary Committee staff is begging me to cover up my IMPEACH shirt, and I’m refusing.
2:08 Rep Mel Watt here now for first time today. He said “If attorneys general are protecting me against terrorists, who is protecting me against THEM?” [Loud applause.] He then refuses to support impeachment. [silence] Did Pelosi send Watt here??
2:02 Franks has interrupted this hearing on the abuses of Bush and Cheney to let us know that we should all be VERY VERY AFRAID of Muslim terrorists. Then Franks says that if there was a failure, it was in allowing 9-11 to occur. [Wow, it’s almost as if he’s read Kucinich’s article of impeachment on that very point. Yes, I’m kidding. He wouldn’t ever have done that.]
1:49 Bobby Scott: Are we necessarily talking about impeachment or something other than impeachment or must it be impeachment, what other tool do we have to enforce limitations on executive power? Fein says that under Nixon when he was in Justice Dept they concluded you could not prosecute a president while in office, and concluded that impeachment was the only remedy for an abusive president. Barr added that Congress can pass laws. Holtzman said that doesn’t matter if president is not bound to obey the laws, and that the real remedy is impeachment — there’s no running away from that. Bugliosi added that president can be prosecuted from the day he leaves office.
1:46 Congressman Kucinich has never left the room and is still sitting in the front row. People are still coming in — all of them impeachment activists — whenever a seat opens up.
1:42 King is still talking about shopping for uranium. Essentially his case amounts to “Yoo Hoo, Look way over here away from the Constitution. I’m making a giant ass of myself! Look Look!” See evidence re uranium lies HERE.
1:37 Nadler suggests impeachment is virtually impossible because conviction requires support of president’s party. Holtzman says that impeachment can be bipartisan, as in fact it was with Nixon. But the Democrats led in the beginning and did not do a headcount before proceeding. The process was made completely fair. Southern Democats and Republicans joined in because it was fair to parties and fair to the president. And when we started nobody thought it would work. It did.
1:32 Nadler questions Schwartz assertion that impeachment is not practical. But prosecution faces possible block by pardons. Do we need to change pardon clause of the Constitution? [IS HE SERIOUS? Amend the Constitution to explicity bar the outrageous absurdity of self-pardoning??] Fein jumps in to say that a statute could require that pardons occur 8 months before leaving office, therby creating political penalty for abuse of the power.
1:30 Nadler suggests that even though executive privilege should not apply in an impeachment hearing, Bush might STILL assert it. Fein replies that remedy wold be an article of impeachment, as with Nixon.
1:28 Nadler tears down rightwing strawman that impeachment is about using presidency for personal gain, it’s about abuse of power! If the Pres lied to Congres, and I think there’s good evidence he did [Nadler just violated the HOLY RULE against calling the king a liar], it’s impeachable. This prez claims right to call anyone in this room an enemy combatant and lock them up forever. This has never happened since Magna Carta in English-speaking countries. They torture. they don’t prosecute their own crimes. There’s no remedy by the executive branch! We’ve got to figure a way around this. [HOW ABOUT IMPEACHMENT?]
1:18 Lamar Smith citing fact that most people have discussed impeachment in this non-impeachment hearing. Presser claims Clinton impeachment had nothing to do with lying about sex, and that he has heard nothing today to suggest impeachable offenses. [YES! More “I am not a crook” discussion from the Republicans.] Radkin joining in: “He did not lie us into a war.” Plus: “Lots of other presidents have lied us into wars too!” [Derrida called this kettle logic: I didn’t break your kettle, it was broken when I borrowed it, they always break, and I never borrowed it at all.]
1:18 Q and A beginning.
Elliott Adams: he joked and passed on commenting.
Schwartz: Abuses of this president are unique. He claims the right to break any law and to do so secretly. This doctrine needs to be “squashed, disagreed with, and exposed.” [HOW ABOUT IMPEACHED?]
Vincent Bugliosi beautifully challenges Presser’s contention that a lie about sex is worse than a lie about war. Now Bugliosi is citing the WHITE HOUSE MEMO. Cindy Sheehan shouted out “Thank you, Vince!” Conyers said that his colleagues were urging him to take action. Cindy said “I urge YOU to take action!” Conyers said, “Well then, Sheehan you’re out.” Cindy left. Other impeachment advocates immediately came in to fill her seat and those of people who left with her.
Bruce Fein: Executive ONLY has powers we the people give him. Do all presidents spy during wars? No, and this is worse because this war is permanent. Robert Jackson at Nuremburg says that an abusive power unrebuked will lie around like a loaded weapon.
Stephen Presser: right to hold this hearing, but there is no evidence of fraudulent motives, and minority report of this committee shows that the admin has cooperated and acted in good faith.
Rocky Anderson: impeachment appropriate now, including for fraud in taking us into war by the pres… oops I mean hight ranking official of the administration.
Bob Barr: Our bill of rights is vanishing. He holds up and displys the Bill of Rights with most of it blacked out. He submits it into the record. Not my job to choose impeachment, but if choice is constitutional inquiry or silence, I choose inquiry. [One rightwinger won over already today!]
Liz H: Admin will never prosecute itself. Truth Commission won’t work. Only impeachment is practical and possible. It eliminates executive privilege. Somebody get this bit onto Youtube ASAP!
12:58 Conyers letting each panelist add something in response to other panelists.
12:53 Elliott Adams’ excellent testimony. He’s reading it now!
12:48 Fred Schwartz opposes impeachment as too late (as if he ever lifted a finger for it) but wants a big whopping “investigation” (which of course actually does take time, unlike impeaching Bush and Cheney on the grounds established today and over the past years).
12:44: A staffer is trying to get me to cover up my IMPEACH shirt and I’m refusing.
12:41 Rightwing minority witness Jeremy Radkin says war lies is clearly most important charge, but claims its “wild conspiracy charges.” And, so, all other charges should be ignored as less important, and then this charge should be ignored as crazy.
12:34 Bugliosi is giving abbreviated version of his usual powerful rap on Bush lying us into war. AND he’s calling for referral of criminal charges to the Justice Department (are you kidding me, Vince? you were going to advocate impeachment, not futility). Great rhetoric, though. [Strong applause results in Republican call to clear the room and Conyers refusal but repeated admonition.
12:32 Conyers is introducing Vince Bugliosi, holding up his book “The Prosecution of George W. Bush for murder.”
12:25 Bruce Fein is now reading his excellent statement, posted earlier on this website.
12:20 p.m. Rightwing lawyer Stephen Presser making case that his brain has been absent from the room for the past couple of hours AND that Bill Clinton was a president who really merited impeachment. He claims that stating a theory about “unitary executive” is not an impeachable offense, but he’s the first today to have suggested that.
Note: more citizens (all for impeachment) are gradually filling in more seats as staffers grow tired and hungry.
12:13 Rocky Anderson wants investigation (as if we don’t already know the crimes and haven’t just heard about them for hours). He wants to know about the spying program. [Fine, but we know, as he says, that it’s felonious. So is it appropriate to “investigate” with no subpoena power or to impeach?] “There has never been a more compelling case for impeachment!” [NOW YOU’RE TALKING!!] Rocky goes on to support legislation delegitimizing signign statements (as if that were possible). He wants legislation (which would be vetoed) to criminalize an illegal attack on Iran [I kid you not].
12:10 Bob Barr going on about wide variety of grave abuses, but not so much what to do about them.
11:58 Liz Holtzman gives prima facie grounds for impeachment: systematic refusal to obey the laws, spying, torture, signing statements, misuse of executive privilege, war lies, etc… we need an impeachment inquiry to educate the public and give members of administration facing accusations a forum in which to respond.
PANEL 2 BEGINS WITH NO QandA for PANEL 1.
11:49 Republican Rep. Walter Jones, in response to signing-statement announcements of intention to violate laws, wants the public to have easy access to the signing statements and Congress to have the right to ask the White House about its criminal announcements. [Now, how does this make more sense than renaming french fries? Well, at least it points to the problem and misses the solution so wildly that even a reporter could see it.] He wants his bill passed now (as if it wouldn’t be vetoed!!).
11:45 Rep. Brad Miller discussing various abuses and various so-called legislative remedies.
11:30 Rep Maurice Hinchey: president dominates entire government. He focuses on “corruption and incompetance”. [Huh? what about criminality and murder?] [He’s going over all the old material in way too conservative a manner and putting me to sleep.] This is th emost impeachable administration in the history of America. [Hello! I’m awake!]
11:25 Kucinich has a written statement (Can somebody get a copy?) and focuses on destructive nature of Iraq war, including impact on US economy. Statements made to justify war were false. Congress members believed the lies. Rules of House prevent me using familiar terms. (DK introduces his three resolutions for impeachment into the record and asks that members read them.) Should we honor our oaths to support and defend the Constitution? Will Congress endorse with its silence the methods used to take us into the Iraq war, one of the greatest injustices imaginable? Act now! Right a very great wrong! Hold accountable those who misled this nation! [DK spoke less than 5 minutes and avoided the I word.]
11:22 PANEL ONE BEGINS WITH KUCINICH.
11:20 Keith Ellison has written statement (Can somebody get a copy?). Congress needs to maintain its power. Impeachment is only way to do it. [Yeah!]
11:15 Rep Tammy Baldwin submitting a written statement. This is about the conduct of future presidents for generations. This is not frivolous, but no task more important than to consider whether our leaders have violated their oaths of office. Public expects no less. After all, it is their Constitution. American people and nations around the world wonder whether US is going to illegally attack Iran, whether their conversations are wiretaped, whether people are being held in sectre prisons, who authorized torture. But attempt to investigate are blocked. List of ignored subpoenas is long. True accountability is impossible. In my judgment at least two high ranking administration officials have met the standard for impeachment [meaning Bush and Cheney] – I now firmly believe we must begin impeachment hearings.
11:08 Rep Hank Johnson: action must be taken.. prevailing view has been that impeachment should be off the table…and public would not approve, but impeachment would restore life and vitality to the system of checks and balances that is the hallmark of our system of government [yeah !] if lying about consensual sexual activity fits the bill, then surely lying to the American people about the invasion of Iraq, a sovereign nation, resulting in countless Iraqi deaths, 4,000 Americans, surely that qualifies as an impeachable offense [brief loud applause]. Kidnapping, detaining, torturing, selective prosecutions, etc, etc. Should consider impeaching. [Conyers again says not to clap.]
11:06 Rep Steve Cohen, freshman from Memphis: recounts Gonzales resigning as he and Bruce Fein were drafting articles of impeachment for him. Supports this hearing.
11:02 Trent Franks just said the word Impeachment repeatedly, requesting that the word never be mentioned. Then said Terrorist, Terrorism, and Terror many many times.
10:57 Rep Sheila Jackson-Lee quoting preamble to the Constitution and defending the importance of taking up impeachment hearings, without predicting the outcome. She is concerned about war lies, torture, possibility of treason, firing of US attorneys, signing statements (and she has legislation [I kid you not!] to address that abuse).
10:51 Republican Rep Pence wants to be sure this is not about impeachment and at the same time wants to argue against impeachment. [The Republicans are putting impeachment on the table AND making themselves look like McCain-style senile fools. Pence is arguing that Bush has not done things he’s publicly on record confessing to, thus opening the door to the corporate media to cover these issues – if they dare.] “There have been no high crimes and misdemeanors!” [“I am not a crook!”]
10:50 Rep Jerrold Nadler saying the offenses now are far more serious than what Clinton was impeached for.
10:45 Republican Rep Dan Lundgren is disappointed. This is impeachment light. The allegations without real impeachment. [Exactly.]
10:43 Rep Zoe Lofgren urging further investigations like today’s.
10:41 Conyers says it’s not an impeachment hearing, and that that could only follow a vote in the full house [of which we have ALREADY HAD THREE SUCCESSFULLY FOR THIS PRESIDENT IN RESPONSE TO RESOLUTIONS FROM KUCINICH!!!]
10:37 Republican Rep King is pointing out that “power to remove” means impeachment – and he’s shocked and scandalized, and he’s seen no impeachable offenses. King is voluntarily bringing up the forged Niger documents and defending the lies about attempts to purchase uranium (as if that would have justified an aggressive war if true, which it wasn’t). He’s claiming to have new proof and introducing it into the record without explaining it.
10:35 Rep Bobby Scott made brief remarks in support of today’s hearing, but did not mention impeachment.
10:31 Conyers introduced Robert Wexler, and the audience applauded him. He’s laying out the case for impeachment powerfully. Never before has an administration so diminished the powers of the legislative branch….ordered officials to refuse to testify or even appear… unprecedented … distorted executive privilege beyond recognition … most appropriate response is to hold hearings for impeachment [applause, and staffer reprimanding those of us applauding]. We have to seek impeachment and removal from office… Delicate balance of power eviscerated… not a Democratic or Republican issue, This is an American issue. The only option left is impeachment hearings. In 1973 articles of impeachment were introduced against Nixon after he tried to use executive privilege … we should look more deeply into what happened… We need to begin to take our government and our country back.
Conyers reminds audience that we can make no reactions.
Wexler’s full statement.
10:26 Ranking Republican Lamar Smith: We recently hosted a book of the month club. Nothing is going to come out of this for impeachment. I know it, the media knows it, the speaker knows it … there’s no evidence for impeachment. You cannot impeach a president simply because you don’t like him. No evidence of any criminal wrong doing. 9% approve of Congress, making Bush look good at 32%. Americans want “bipartisanship.” Smith is now reading an excerpt from the House Rules: no personally offensive language toward the president, etc…
10:19 a.m. ET Conyers is speaking quite to the point on the power of the purse and the power of impeachment (he said the power “to remove” and avoided the I word). He’s mentioning politicization of Justice Dept, signing statements, detention, rendition, “possible” manipulation of intelligence, retaliation including outing of Plame, excessive secrecy. Evidence is both credible and substantial and merits direct answers from “the most senior members of the administration under oath if possible” (by which he likely means Bush and Cheney, but how does he propose to put them under oath? We will struggle with this legacy regardless of electoral outcome. Some say we’ve done too little too late [damn straight]. I held hearings on Downing Street Memo and Ohio elections before being chairman, and as chairman I’ve held more than 45 separate public hearings on these matters [to what end?]. We’ve sent subpoenas and pursued criminal contempt [with what outcome?]. We expect to take action against Karl Rove for refusal to comply with a subpoena [what action, when?, and will it include impeaching his former boss?] We’ve held investigations and passed legislation and we’re not done until we achieve accountability [how, without impeachment?].
10:08 Very noisy protests ongoing in the hallway, which can be heard in the hearing room. My internet connection is shakey and I hope it holds out. Hearing has not begun. A huge number of congressional staffers are here filling up seats.
10:02 Noisy standing ovation by some 20 people when Dennis Kucinich and his wife Elizabeth and dedicated scheduler Amy Vossbrink walked in.
9:57 a.m. I’m in the back row with a power outlet and a good connection online. They let a grand total of 17 members of the public into the room. A crowd of hundreds is in the hallway shouting “Shame! Shame!” despite being offered two large overflow rooms. The 17 of us include a bunch of people with IMPEACH shirts, after we won an argument in the hallway for the right to wear them — led by Col. (retired) Ann Wright. At least half of us (not I) are members of Vets for Peace. [18 people: Dave Lindorff got in as press]
7:48 A Capitol Police officer is here, making everyone (including disabled vets) stand, not sit, and preventing me from having my computer near a power outlet, so I’m going to turn it off and save the battery.
7:38 About 60 or 70 people are here in line. We’re all impeachment advocates. We’ve made our own numbered tickets. Cynthia Papermaster is 1. Cindy Sheehan is 2. I’m 7. We’re in the hallway outside Rayburn 2141, and nobody official has shown up yet. We don’t know how many people will get in, and how many will sit in overflow rooms. By the way, it is unheard of to have or to need overflow rooms, but they will today. I’ll be on Pacifica radio at 9:30. Their broadcast starts