Thursday, December 20, 2007

To Impeach or Not to Impeach: Conyers, Wexler, McGovern

Ralph Nazareth found Amy Goodman and Juan Ganzales interviewing
Conyers, Wexler, McGovern at the same time:

To Impeach or Not to Impeach? A Discussion with House Judiciary Chair
John Conyers and CIA Veteran Ray McGovern

Three Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee—Robert Wexler
of Florida, Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, and Tammy Baldwin of
Wisconsin—have called on committee chair John Conyers to begin
impeachment hearings against Vice President Dick Cheney. We host a
discussion on impeachment with Conyers and former CIA analyst Ray
McGovern. [includes rush transcript]

AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Conyers, I
wanted to turn to another controversial issue, one that you've been
dealing with and have over time, that issue of impeachment. Now, three
Democratic members of your committee, of the House Judiciary
Committee—Robert Wexler of Florida, Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, Tammy
Baldwin of Wisconsin—have called on you to begin impeachment hearings
against Vice President Dick Cheney. This week, Congressman Wexler said
the charges against the Vice President are too serious to ignore.

REP. ROBERT WEXLER: It is time for the House Judiciary Committee to
hold impeachment hearings for Vice President Cheney. We have an
obligation to ask questions, to determine whether in fact the Vice
President purposefully manipulated intelligence, bringing us into war,
whether he knowingly ordered the illegal use of torture, whether he
knowingly exposed covert agents for political purposes, whether he
obstructed federal investigations. These charges are too serious to

AMY GOODMAN: Since last week, over 100,000 people have signed a
petition on Congressman Wexler's website supporting impeachment
hearings. And we're wondering, Congressman Conyers, now with your
committee members taking up this issue, an issue that you actually long
championed, what your feelings are today. Will you be supporting them
in this?

REP. JOHN CONYERS: Well, no, but there are a lot of things that can and
will be done. We're documenting the transgressions and errors of the
administration in the Department of Justice, which have led to the
firing of nine US attorneys. We're looking at the protections of the
right to vote. The election is coming up. We've got to protect
everybody's right to get out here and make a choice and make sure that
it's counted.

AMY GOODMAN: Why stop short of hearings on impeachment?

REP. JOHN CONYERS: Well, because, unless we're going to impeach the
Vice President and the President within this space of time, I think we
could be very seriously compromising the greatest important—most
important thing, in addition to documenting any misdeeds that may have
happened, whether we continue to have Bush enablers continue to shatter
and tear the Constitution to shreds. And so, all of this, academically,
is great. I've got a number of books from my friends about which
articles would be best and which ones we should go after more. But it
seems to me that the time element and also the feasibility of whether
or not there is any possible chance of success—there is a very stark
reality that with the corporatization of the media, we could end up
with turning people who should be documented in history as making many
profound errors and violating the Constitution from villains into
victims. And those are the kinds of considerations that have entered my
mind in thinking about this process, Amy.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Ray McGovern, you've been outspoken on this issue,
and given the new evidence now about the destruction of the CIA tapes
and the White House staff—some staff involvement in that, your sense of
the impeachment situation?

RAY McGOVERN: Well, we not only have the obstruction of justice, but we
have the President's former spokesman saying that he was involved in
the outing of Valerie Plame. We also have the President threatening
World War III on bogus evidence that Iran was developing a nuclear
weapons development program. So, you know, it's sort of like outreach
fatigue. Where do you begin?

Well, where I would begin is with the demonstrably impeachable
offenses—first and foremost, the President's not only admission, but
his bragging about violating laws against eavesdropping on Americans
without a court warrant. He bragged that he did that thirty times. That
was one of the articles of impeachment voted against President Nixon.
Similarly, disregarding subpoenas, that, too, was one of the articles
voted against President Nixon in the Judiciary Committee, where
Congressman Conyers, of course, served very loyally. So you have those
two right there.

And that's not even mentioning, you know, forging, manufacturing,
coming up with false intelligence to deceive congressmen and senators
out of their constitutional prerogative to declare or to otherwise
authorize war. I mean, it doesn't get any worse than that. And so, my
sense is that our founders are probably turning over in their grave at
this point, because they put the impeachment clause in the declarative
mood, not the subjunctive mood. They didn't say that—

JUAN GONZALEZ: But, Ray McGovern, what about the argument that
Congressman Conyers raises that given the short amount of time left in
the term of the President and the difficulty of actually being able to
vote out an impeachment, that it would divert much of the attention of
the Democratic Party in a way that would not necessarily lead to

RAY McGOVERN: I think what I hear Congressman Conyers saying is that
Fox News would have a field day if he didn't get 218 votes right off
the bat. That is not an explanation, in my view. If you read Article
II, Section 4 of the Constitution, which I think should be the document
we abide by, it says the President, Vice President, other senior
officials shall be removed from office upon impeachment for and
conviction of high crimes and misdemeanors. Congressman Conyers and his
staff, a year ago, came up with a 350-page indictment of all the
offenses against the Constitution that Bush had already been guilty of.
So I don't really understand the delay.

I'm wondering if there isn't some sort of crass political reason for
it, namely, don't make any waves. The President's numbers are in the
toilet. The Vice President's numbers are flushed down the toilet. Just
don't do anything at all, so that Fox News will have nothing to seize
upon in accusing the Democrats of being divisive or something like
that. I don't think that's the right constitutional approach, and I
feel very strongly about that, and many of my colleagues do, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Conyers, more than 100,000 people signed the
impeachment petition on Congressman Wexler, your colleague in the House
Judiciary Committee's website. Your response to this growing call in
the United States?

REP. JOHN CONYERS: Well, I've been monitoring the growing call. I've
been going to many meetings to talk about this. But this isn't a Fox 2
event. As bad as they may be, it doesn't mean that the rest of them
won't chime in, as well. And I think that that has a great deal to do
with whether we're going to continue Bush enablers in the White House,
and, to me, that is not a small event. And the Constitution doesn't
read into us the other considerations of timing, whether you have the
votes, whether it will have a reverse effect. They didn't put all that
in, and for very good reason. And so, I'm hoping that we can continue
this discussion, but that what I'm doing this morning is holding
hearings to reveal the fact that there ought to be public knowledge of
what's going on in all these attempts at secret hearings on the
destruction of these tapes. And I think that will lead us—help lead us
to what we must ultimately do. So—

AMY GOODMAN: These numbers, Congressman Conyers, quickly, American
Research Group, 45% of Americans would back impeachment proceedings
against Bush, 54%—that's more than half the American people—would back
the same against Cheney. Your response?

REP. JOHN CONYERS: Well, I respect whoever they are, but I've got to
produce the votes inside the Congress, and that's where our first
battle is going to be. I had Ray McGovern in my first Downing Street
memos hearings in the basement a few years back, in which we revealed
that the war in Iraq was more preemptive than anything else. But
marching into history, I've got to put together a winning program and
not step on our message. We've got a lot of legislation to accomplish.
The minority party in the House has been—and the Senate, too—have been
very effective in preventing us from moving forward. And we've got—

AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Conyers, we're going to leave it there but go
to one of those issues that has been so troubling for so many in this
country, and that is what's happening in New Orleans. We're going to
turn to a piece now about the demolition of public housing. We want to
thank you very much, Chairman Conyers, for joining us, head of the
House Judiciary Committee, and Ray McGovern, longtime CIA analyst,
actually was the daily briefer for President Bush—that's President
George H.W. Bush when he was Vice President.