Friday, July 06, 2007

Should Vice President Cheney Be Impeached? Hank Johnson Says Yes, Barack Obama Says No

Should Vice President Cheney Be Impeached? Hank Johnson Says Yes, Barack Obama Says No
By: Michael H. Cottman

Saying Vice President Dick Cheney deliberately mislead the American people about the U.S. government’s role in Iraq, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) said Tuesday he felt compelled to sign a House resolution to impeach Cheney for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Johnson, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, told that he is fed up with the Vice President operating as if he is above the law.

"I wanted to send a clear and distinct message that I’m sick and tired of the incompetence, arrogance, secrecy and lawlessness in the Executive Branch and I think it’s appropriate for me to direct my ire to Cheney through the impeachment resolution," Johnson said in an interview.

Johnson said he is "more committed" than ever to support the resolution, particularly after President George W. Bush on Tuesday left open the possibility of an eventual pardon for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former White House aide and Cheney’s chief of staff.

"As to the future, I rule nothing in and nothing out," the president said a day after commuting Libby's 2 1/2-year prison term in the CIA leak case. Bush said he had weighed his decision carefully to erase Libby's prison time for lying and obstruction of justice. He said the jury's conviction of Libby should stand but the prison term was too severe.

With prison seeming all but certain for Libby, Bush’s move came just five hours after a federal appeals court panel ruled that Libby could not delay the start of his sentence. The Bureau of Prisons had already assigned Libby a prison identification number.

"Now comes Scooter Libby, who is allowed to scoot free in the face of the American public," Johnson said. "The vice president’s hand is still at work."

Johnson acknowledged that impeachment proceedings may not go forward, but said, "Anything is possible. I’m finding that the American people are equally as frustrated as I am [at Cheney], and they want Democrats to take strong action."

The resolution, introduced in April by president candidate Rep. Dennis J, Kucinich (D-OH), states that the vice president has "purposely manipulated the intelligence process to deceive" citizens and the Congress by fabricating a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

"It became obvious to me that this vice president, who was a driving force for taking the United States into a war against Iraq under false pretenses, is once again rattling the sabers of war against Iran with the same intent to drive America into another war, again based on false pretenses," Kucinich told reporters in April.

"It's not appropriate for the government to lie to people," Kucinich said. "It is wrong for government officials -- you know, the vice president, in this case -- to take this nation into war based on lies."

"And so, again, this becomes a question of who we are as a people," the congressman added. "And so this resolution 333, Articles of Impeachment against the Vice President, will let future generations know that no one is above the law of this country and that Congresses have the specific responsibility to provide a check to administrative abuse of power."

Kucinich’s Articles of Impeachment against Vice President Cheney reads in part:

"In his conduct while Vice President of the United States, Richard B. Cheney, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of Vice President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has purposely manipulated the intelligence process to deceive the citizens and Congress of the United States by fabricating a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to justify the use of the United States Armed Forces against the nation of Iraq in a manner damaging to our national security interests, to wit:

"Despite all evidence to the contrary, the Vice President actively and systematically sought to deceive the citizens and Congress of the United States about an alleged threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction..."

"Preceding the March 2003 invasion of Iraq the Vice President was fully informed that no legitimate evidence existed of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The Vice President pressured the intelligence community to change their findings to enable the deception of the citizens and Congress of the United States."

However, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) said he opposes impeachment for either President George W. Bush or Vice President Cheney.

Obama said he would not back such a move, although he has been distressed by the "loose ethical standards, the secrecy and incompetence" of a "variety of characters" in the administration.

"There's a way to bring an end to those practices, you know: Vote the bums out," the top-tier presidential candidate said, without naming Bush or Cheney. "That's how our system is designed."

The term for Bush and Cheney ends on Jan. 20, 2009. Bush cannot constitutionally run for a third term, and Cheney has said he will not run to succeed Bush.

Obama, a Harvard law school graduate and former lecturer on constitutional law at the University of Chicago, said impeachment should not be used as a standard political tool.

Meanwhile, a vocal coalition of Cheney critics are calling for impeaching the Vice President, including Democrats, citizen groups, political and community organizations and websites, including

"In the end," writes Bruce Fein for, "President Bush regularly is unable to explain or defend the policies of his own administration, and that is because the heavy intellectual labor has been performed in the office of the vice president. Cheney is impeachable for his overweening power and his sneering contempt of the Constitution and the rule of law."

Said Johnson in a statement: "This vice president has continually operated in the shadows -- beyond the view of the American public. I intend to hold him accountable to the same high standards that we must all uphold. We all acknowledge that he is the most powerful vice president in the history of this nation, however, he is not above or beyond the law."


Associated Press contributed to this story.