Efforts to initiate the impeachment of President George W. Bush

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Since President George W. Bush took office in 2001, numerous local governments, party organizations, and members of Congress have called for impeachment proceedings against both him and members of his administration. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) introduced a resolution late in 2005 calling for a special committee to investigate a variety of allegations against Bush and possibly make a recommendation for impeachment to the House. Statements by both Conyers, and Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), however, have indicated that neither plans to pursue impeachment in the 110th Congress. Nonetheless, numerous state and local governments and party organizations have considered and passed resolutions addressing the impeachment of Bush and other members of the administration over the past several years. This page covers these efforts, as well as congressional action related to the matter.

Contents

Impeachment in the U.S.

Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution deems 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." The House is granted the sole power of impeachment, and proceedings may be commenced by a member of the House on his or her own initiative by either presenting a listing of the charges under oath, or by introducing a resolution for referral to the appropriate committee. A resolution impeaching a particular individual is typically referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, which then determines whether grounds for impeachment exist. If the Committee finds grounds for impeachment, it will set forth specific allegations of misconduct in one or more "articles of impeachment," which are then reported to the full House.[1]

The House debates the resolution and may at the conclusion consider the resolution as a whole or vote on each article of impeachment individually. A simple majority of those present and voting is required for each article or the resolution as a whole to pass. If the House votes to impeach, the Senate then has the authority to try the defendant. After the trial concludes, conviction requires a two-thirds majority. The Senate may vote thereafter to punish the individual only by removing her or him from office, or by barring her or him from holding future office, or both. It may also impose no punishment, although in the case of executive officers, removal follows automatically upon conviction. Following conviction, the defendant remains liable to criminal prosecution.[2]

In the history of the United States, two presidents (Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998) have been impeached from office. Neither was convicted by the Senate and both completed their respective terms. In 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned from office as he was facing likely impeachment as a result of the Watergate scandal.[3]

Congressional action on impeachment

Bill to impeach Bush filed by Rep. Cynthia McKinney in late 2006

In the waning hours of the 109th Congress, outgoing Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) filed a bill to impeach President Bush. It accused him of breaking his oath of office to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States. The bill had no chance of passing and was seen a symbolic gesture. It was a slap not only at President Bush, but also at House Democratic leadership, particularly Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the future majority leader who warned colleagues that impeachment measures would not be fielded during the 110th Congress.[4]

Resolution by Rep. John Conyers to investigate Bush for impeachable offenses in 2005

On December 18, 2005, Conyers introduced a resolution (H. Res. 635) that would create a special House committee to investigate a variety of allegations against President Bush and possibly make a recommendation to the full House that the allegations merit impeachment. It was assigned to the House Committee on Rules, where the committee's chairman in the 109th Congress, Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), did not bring it up for a vote.[5] Many believed, however, that if the Democrats won control of the House in November 2006, Conyers, as likely chairman of the Judiciary Committee, would continue to pursue the matter.

The resolution would create a committee to investigate the following:

  • Actions by the White House, National Security Council, Department of State, Department of Defense, and Central Intelligence Agency related to United Nations and Iraq Survey Group inspections of Iraq.
  • Knowledge of Iraq's ability regarding and intentions toward, or lack of ability regarding or intentions toward, nuclear weapons capability.
  • Knowledge regarding Iraq's possession of or attempted possession of, or regarding the lack of possession of or attempted possession of, chemical or biological weapons.
  • Knowledge of Iraq's possession of aluminum tubes for conventional rocket programs or for nuclear weapons development.
  • Knowledge regarding Iraq's intent, or lack of intent, toward acquiring yellowcake uranium from Niger.
  • Knowledge of any involvement, or lack of involvement, by Iraq in the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States.
  • Knowledge of any connections or ties, or of any lack of connections or ties, between Iraq and al Qaeda.
  • Knowledge of any meeting, or lack of any meeting, between Iraqi intelligence officials and Mohammed Atta (the lead hijacker on September 11, 2001) in Prague, Czechoslovakia.
  • Preparations for detention, interrogation and treatment of detainees, or lack thereof, made in the planning stages of the Iraq conflict prior to March 19, 2003,
  • Knowledge of abuses and mistreatment of detainees during the Iraq conflict after March 19, 2003,
  • The investigation of abuses and mistreatment, or lack thereof, the results of these investigations, any sanctions or punishment of offenders, and any efforts to keep these reports either from supervisors, officials or the public,
  • An examination of all prison facilities, including the High Value Detainee facility at Baghdad airport and secret prisons or "black sites" for detaining individuals outside the United States.
  • The extent to which civilian, military, or intelligence officials expressly authorized, willingly ignored, or created an atmosphere that condoned the abuses and mistreatment that occurred at Abu Ghraib, Iraq.
  • Knowledge on the part of any White House officials of the covert identity of Valerie Plame Wilson and any discussion or communication by such officials with members of the media about such identity, and any failure to enforce Executive Order 12958.[6]

Members of impeachment committee

The special committee would be comprised of 20 House representatives (10 appointed by the Speaker of the House and 10 appointed by the Democratic minority leader).[7]

Cosponsors

As of November 2006, the bill had the following 38 co-sponsors (with sponsorship date):

Additionally, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) co-sponsored the legislation on December 22, 2005, but withdrew on January 31, 2006.[8]

Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi disavows impeachment efforts in 110th Congress

In statements she made to the Washington Post in early 2006, then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) left open the possibility that if Democrats took over the House after the November 2006 elections, their planned investigations into the Bush administration could lead to impeachment. Although impeachment would not be the goal of the investigations, she said, "You never know where it leads to."[9]

In May 2006, the Washington Post reported that Pelosi was not interested in pursuing impeachment and had taken it "off the table."[10] She reiterated this position throughout the 2006 campaign, noting on 60 Minutes that Republicans would "just love" the "waste of time" the proceedings would be. She added that "Making them lame ducks...is good enough for me."[11](Watch Pelosi pledge not to impeach Bush)

After the Democrats won control of the House in November 2006, Speaker-elect Pelosi reinforced that any effort to impeach President Bush was "off the table."[12]

Conyers agrees not to re-file resolution in 2007

In May 2006, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who had sponsored a resolution in late 2005 to investigate the admistration for numerous potentially impeachable offenses (see below), announced that he was no longer interested in pursuing impeachment.[13] He stated:

So, rather than seeking impeachment, I have chosen to propose comprehensive oversight of these alleged abuses. The oversight I have suggested would be performed by a select committee made up equally of Democrats and Republicans and chosen by the House speaker and the minority leader.[14]

Following the Democratic victory in 2006, Conyers responded to Speaker-elect Pelosi's promise not to pursue impeachment. He stated, "I am in total agreement with her on this issue...Impeachment is off the table."[15]

State and local efforts regarding the impeachment of President Bush

Since 2005, numerous local governments have introduced and passed resolutions calling for the impeachment of President Bush and members his administration. Similar resolutions have been introduced in several state legislatures. While these actions are often seen as grassroots attempts to influence members of Congress to pursue the matter, some argue that states themselves possess the power to set impeachment proceedings in motion.

Jefferson's Manual

In 1801, Vice-President Thomas Jefferson published the Manual of Parliamentary Practice, a book of parliamentary procedure and additional guidelines for the U.S. Congress. The Senate does not currently use the manual, though the House uses it as a supplement to its standing rules.[16] The final standing rule of the House (rule XXIX) provides (in part) that "the rules of parliamentary practice comprised by Jefferson’s Manual shall govern the House in all cases to which they are applicable and in which they are not inconsistent with the Rules and orders of the House."[17]

The manual is important on the question of impeaching a president. The first sentence in section 603 of the House Rules and Manual, the Parliamentarian's annotation of Mr. Jefferson's paragraph on accusation in section LIII of Jefferson's Manual, states:

In the House there are various methods of setting an impeachment in motion: by charges made on the floor on the responsibility of a Member or Delegate (Hinds’ Precedents, vol. 2, sec. 1303; Hinds’ Precedents, vol. 3, sec. 2342, 2400, 2469; Cannon’s Precedents, vol. 6, sec. 525, 526, 528, 535, 536); by charges preferred by a memorial, which is usually referred to a committee for examination (Hinds’ Precedents, vol. 3, sec. 2364, 2491, 2494, 2496, 2499, 2515; Cannon’s Precedents, vol. 6, sec. 543); by a resolution dropped in the hopper by a Member and referred to a committee (Apr. 15, 1970, p. 11941; Oct. 23, 1973, p. 34873); by a message from the President (Hinds’ Precedents, vol. 3, sec. 2294, 2319; Cannon’s Precedents, vol. 6, sec. 498); by charges transmitted from the legislature of a State (Hinds’ Precedents, vol. 3, sec. 2469) or territory (Hinds’ Precedents, vol. 3, sec. 2487) or from a grand jury (Hinds’ Precedents, vol. 3, sec. 2488); or from facts developed and reported by an investigating committee of the House (Hinds’ Precedents, vol. 3, sec. 2399, 2444).[18]

Authority of the manual up for debate

The authority of the manual, however, is debated by some. Jon Brandt, the spokesman for the House Committee on House Administration, has stated that the determination of the applicability of Jefferson's Manual is up to the House Parliamentarian. But the Parliamentarian is quick to make the point stated above: The final standing rule of the House (rule XXIX) provides (in part) that "the rules of parliamentary practice comprised by Jefferson’s Manual shall govern the House in all cases to which they are applicable and in which they are not inconsistent with the Rules and orders of the House." Still, Brandt noted that the Parliamentarian in the 109th Congress, John Sullivan, affirmed that if a state impeachment resolution were received by the House, it would be sent to the House Committee on the Judiciary but would not by itself trigger formal proceedings.[19] Under rules I, XII, and XIV, a memorial from a state is referred to committee by the Speaker.[20]

Bob Bennett, professor of constitutional law at Northwestern University School of Law, believes that the applicability of Jefferson's Manual is unclear, but that there is nothing in the Constitution which enshrines it or the authority of states to initiate impeachment proceedings.[21]

State by state impeachment efforts

The following is a rundown of the state and local governments that have addressed the impeachment of President Bush, as well as efforts by state party organizations to adopt impeachment as part of their platform.

Alaska

On May 21, 2006, the Alaska Democratic Party passed a resolution calling for the impeachment of President Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and World Bank President (and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz). The resolution cited “the unjustified invasion of Iraq,” the administration’s “felonious warrantless wiretaps,” and “gross incompetence in response to natural disasters, stewardship of the economy and the environment” as its primary reasons.[22]

California

On April 21, 2006, California State Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-Calif.) submitted Joint Resolution No. 39, calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney. The resolution references Section 603 of Jefferson’s Manual.[23]

The resolution bases the call for impeachment on the administration's:

  • Misleading Congress and the American people regarding the threat from Iraq in order to justify an unnecessary war that has cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives and casualties.
  • Exceeding constitutional authority to wage war by invading Iraq.
  • Exceeding constitutional authority by Federalizing the National Guard.
  • Conspiring to torture prisoners in violation of the “Federal Torture Act” and indicating intent to continue such actions. (See Congresspedia page on War on Terror detainee legislation)
  • Spying on American citizens in violation of the 1978 Foreign Agency Surveillance Act.
  • Leaking and covering up the leak of the identity of Valerie Plame Wilson
  • Holding American citizens without charge or trial.

Also in California, numerous towns and party organizations have addressed the impeachment of President Bush and members of his administration.

  • On June 19, 2005, the California Democratic Council Statewide Convention in San Bernardino approved an impeachment resolution.[24]
  • On March 1, 2006, the San Francisco Supervisors voted 7-3 to call for the impeachment of Bush.[25]
  • On March 8, 2006, the Nevada City Green Party called for the impeachment of Bush.[26]
  • On March 13, 2006, the Sonoma County Democratic Central Committee passed an impeachment resolution against Bush.[27]
  • On April 25, 2006, the Berkeley City Council passed a resolution calling for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. On June 27, 2006, the council voted to place an Impeach Bush advisory measure on the November ballot.[28]
  • On April 29, 2006, the California Democratic Party adopted an impeachment proclamation at its state convention in Sacramento.[29]
  • On May 19, 2006, the five-member city council of Sebastopol, California unanimously passed an impeachment resolution criticizing Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for their handling of national security issues.[30]
  • On July 5, 2006, the town council of Fairfax, California unanimously passed a resolution to impeach both Bush and Cheney.[31]
  • On August 8, 2006, San Francisco placed an Impeach Bush advisory measure on the November ballot.[32]

Colorado

On May 20, 2006, the Colorado State Democratic Party adopted impeachment language in their official platform. It stated:

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney and their administration have abused their power and appear to have repeatedly violated the Constitution. They should be investigated, censured or if appropriate, impeached.[33]

Illinois

On April 20, 2006, State Rep. Karen Yarbrough introduced a resolution calling for the impeachment of Bush.[34]

On July 10, 2006, the twin cities of Champaign and Urbana, Illinois placed initiatives on the November 2006 ballot calling for a rapid and orderly withdrawal from Iraq, as well as the impeachment of both Bush and Cheney.[35]

Indiana

On April 8, 2006, Lake Station, Indiana placed the impeachment of Bush on the agenda for their April 13 meeting. The resolution was rejected. Councilwoman Josephine Collins stated, “We have so much that we have to deal with in this city...There are other things we need to discuss.”[36]

Maine

On April 20, 2006, the Kennebec County Democratic Committee became the first county committee in Maine to pass a resolution to impeach both Bush and Cheney. The measure passed with a 28 to 7 vote.[37]

Massachusetts

On May 30, 2005, Brookline, Massachusetts, the birthplace of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, passed an impeachment resolution 104 to 52. The resolution cited Bush’s misleading Americans into the war with Iraq.[38]

On March 9, 2006, the Amherst, Massachusetts Democratic Town Committee passed a resolution recommending the impeachment of Bush on the basis of starting an aggressive war (in violation of the U.S. Constitution, the U.N. Charter, and international treaties), allowing torture, and illegally wiretapping citizens.[39]

On November 1, 2006, Amherst, Massachusetts held a special town meeting and passed a resolution calling for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. A resolution to withdraw troops from Iraq also passed.[40]

New Hampshire

On May 9, 2006, Hanover, New Hampshire voted 111 to 42 in favor of impeachment in a city-wide ballot. The resolution stated:[41]

To support the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney due to their arbitrary exercise of executive power by instituting a system of warrant-less wiretapping of American citizens in defiance of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.[42]

New Mexico

On March 21, 2006, the New Mexico State Democratic Party added impeachment of Bush to their party platform at a state convention in Albuquerque. The platform provision cites that the Bush administration is “fraught with abuses of power and violations of the Constitution.”[43]

New York

On April 6, 2006, the city of Plattsburgh, New York passed a resolution 4-2 endorsing the Conyers’ House resolution calling for an investigation and possible impeachment of Bush.[44]

On July 2, 2006, the village board of the New Paltz, New York passed a resolution calling for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. The town board of New Paltz unanimously passed a virtually identical petition on September 28, 2006.[45]

Oregon

On July 16, 2005, the Democratic Party of Oregon adopted a resolution asking Congress to immediately begin investigating the Downing Street memos and consider impeachment proceedings against Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”<ref?Impeach Bush: Oregon, Impeach Bush.</ref>

On February 9, 2006, the Multnomah County Democratic Central Committee passed a resolution supporting Conyers’ resolution.<ref?Impeach Bush: Oregon, Impeach Bush.</ref>

Pennsylvania

On April 22, 2006, State Senator Jim Ferlo launched a public campaign urging his constituents to sign petitions calling for Congress to launch an impeachment inquiry against Bush. Ferlo, a former Pittsburgh City Council president, stated that he believed it was entirely appropriate for state officials and citizens to play a role in the impeachment debate.[46]

Rhode Island

On June 8, 2006, an impeachment resolution was submitted to the Charlestown, Rhode Island town council by John Hardiman.[47]

Texas

On June 11, 2006, a Bush impeachment resolution nearly passed at the Texas Democratic Convention.[48]

Washington

On March 4, 2006, the 34th District Democrats of West Seattle, Washington agreed to an impeachment resolution on the basis of the administration’s conduct surrounding the Iraq War, its treatment of detainees in the War on Terror, and its warrantless domestic wiretapping program.[49]

Wisconsin

On June 12, 2006, the Wisconsin Democratic Party Convention passed a resolution calling for Congress to initiate impeachment proceedings against Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.[50]

Vermont

On March 1, 2006, the Rutland County Democratic Committee passed a resolution calling for Bush's impeachment.[51]

On March 7, 2006, the town of Newfane, Vermont voted 121-29 to call on Vermont’s lone member of the U.S. House, independent Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), to file articles of impeachment against Bush, alleging that he misled the nation into the Iraq War and authorized illegal domestic spying. The towns of Dummerston, Marlboro and Putney all passed similar resolutions soon after.[52]

On April 7, 2006, Rockingham, Vermont passed an impeachment resolution, 55-30, to be delivered to the Clerk of the House via the House Speaker.[53]

On April 8, 2006, the Democratic State Committee voted to urge the U.S. Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against Bush.[54]

On April 26, 2006, State Rep. Dave Zuckerman introduced a measure to impeach Bush and was joined by 23 of his colleagues. The measure was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, according to the Office of House Speaker Gaye Symington.[55][56]

On September 28, 2006, the Montpelier City Council agreed to place an impeachment referendum on the November ballot.[57]

On April 20, 2007, the Vermont Senate passed a resolution calling for the United States Congress to begin the impeachment process of President George W. Bush.[58]

Articles and resources

See also

References

  1. "What Is Impeachment?," ThinkQuest.
  2. "What Is Impeachment?," ThinkQuest.
  3. Borgna Brunner, "A Short History of Impeachment," infoplease.
  4. "Rep. Cynthia McKinney Introduces Bush Impeachment Bill," Associated Press (via Fox News), December 8, 2006.
  5. THOMAS: H.Res.635, Library of Congress.
  6. THOMAS: H.Res.635, Library of Congress.
  7. THOMAS: H.Res.635, Library of Congress.
  8. THOMAS: H.Res.635, Library of Congress.
  9. Charles Babington, "Democrats Won't Try To Impeach President," Washington Post, May 12, 2006.
  10. Charles Babington, "Democrats Won't Try To Impeach President," Washington Post, May 12, 2006.
  11. "Pelosi: Impeachment 'off the table,'" The Raw Story, Monday October 23, 2006.
  12. Nancy Zuckerbrod, "Pelosi Says Democrats Are Ready to Lead," Associated Press (via Fox News), November 08, 2006.
  13. John Conyers Jr., "No Rush to Impeachment," Washington Post, May 18, 2006.
  14. John Conyers Jr., "No Rush to Impeachment," Washington Post, May 18, 2006.
  15. Ruby Bailey, "John Conyers: Will he push for Bush impeachment hearings? He says no," Detroit Free Press (via Jones Report), November 10, 2006.
  16. Congressional Glossary: Jefferson's Manual, C-SPAN.
  17. Rules of the House of Representatives: One Hundred Ninth Congress U.S. House of Representatives.
  18. 109th Congress House Rules Manual: sec. liii--impeachment Government Printing Office.
  19. John Huston, "Impeachment Sought," Westchester Herald (via Northwestern University School of Law), April 26, 2006.
  20. Rules of the House of Representatives: One Hundred Ninth Congress U.S. House of Representatives.
  21. John Huston, "Impeachment Sought," Westchester Herald (via Northwestern University School of Law), April 26, 2006.
  22. Alaska Democratic Resolutions 2006 - NR 7, Impeach Bush, May 21, 2006.
  23. Press Release: California Assemblyman Paul Koretz Submits Impeachment Resolution, Office of California Assemblyman Paul Koretz, April 22, 2006.
  24. CDC-CA Statewide Convention June-05 Resolution Text, Impeach PAC, March 4, 2006.
  25. SF Supervisors Vote To Impeach Bush, Impeach PAC, March 1, 2006.
  26. Nevada City (CA) Green Party Calls For Impeachment, Impeach PAC, March 8, 2006.
  27. Resolution calling for the California Legislature to pass a Joint Resolution impeaching George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney, Impeach PAC, March 13, 2006.
  28. Impeach Bush: California, Impeach PAC.
  29. CA Democratic Party Proclamation, Impeach PAC, April 29, 2006.
  30. Katy Hillenmeyer, "Sebastopol urges Bush inquiry," The Press Democrat, May 19, 2006.
  31. "Town of Fairfax Urges Congress to Impeach Bush and Cheney," Impeach PAC, July 6, 2006.
  32. "San Francisco Puts Impeachment on the November Ballot,", After Downing Street, August 8, 2006.
  33. Impeach Bush: Colorado, Impeach Bush, May 20, 2006.
  34. Bill Status of HJR0125, Illinois General Assembly.
  35. Mike Monson, "Iraq war issues to be on ballots," The News-Gazette, April 12, 2006.
  36. Impeach Bush:Indiana, Impeach Bush.
  37. Impeach Bush: Maine, Impeach Bush.
  38. Kathleen Burge, "A call to impeach from Brookline," Boston Globe (via After Downing Street), June 1, 2006.
  39. A Call For the Impeachment of President George W. Bush, Impeach Bush, March 9, 2006.
  40. Town Meeting, Town of Amherst, Massachusetts.
  41. Impeach Bush: New Hampshire, Impeach Bush.
  42. Impeach Bush: New Hampshire, Impeach Bush.
  43. Impeach Bush: New Mexico, Impeach Bush.
  44. Impeach Bush: New York, Impeach Bush.
  45. Impeach Bush: New York, Impeach Bush.
  46. Impeach Bush: Pennsylvania, Impeach Bush.
  47. Impeach Bush: Rhode Island, Impeach Bush.
  48. Impeach Bush: Texas, Impeach Bush.
  49. Impeach Bush: Washington state's 34 District Democratic Committee, Impeach Bush.
  50. "State Dems: Impeach Bush," Journal Times, July 2, 2007.
  51. Impeach Bush: Vermont, Impeach Bush.
  52. Impeach Bush: Vermont, Impeach Bush.
  53. Impeach Bush: Vermont, Impeach Bush.
  54. Impeach Bush: Vermont, Impeach Bush.
  55. Impeach Bush: Vermont, Impeach Bush.
  56. Shay Totten, "Vermonters deliver impeachment resolutions to Congress," Vermont Guardian, May 1, 2006.
  57. Impeach Bush: Vermont, Impeach Bush.
  58. "Vermont Senate passes impeachment resolution," Dialy Kos, April 20, 2007.

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