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Monday, March 13, 2006

Worse than Monica: 30 US Reps for Bush Impeachment Inquiry


Matthew Cardinale

ATLANTA – 30 US House Representatives have signed on as sponsors or co-sponsors of H. Res 635, which would create a Select Committee to look into the grounds for recommending President Bush’s impeachment, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.

“There has been massive support for House Resolution 635 from a very vigorous network of grassroots activists and people committed to holding the Bush Administration accountable for its widespread abuses of power,” US Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) said in a statement prepared for Atlanta Progressive News.

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) also released a book, Articles of Impeachment Against President Bush. The Center is extremely influential in high-profile court fights over issues such as wiretapping, the treatment of detainees by the US, and felon voting rights.

“We have the book, we are calling for the impeachment of the President, and we’re supporting Conyers’s resolution,” Bill Goodman, CCR Legal Director, told Atlanta Progressive News.

“The fraudulent basis on which the President got us into the war in Iraq; the obvious criminality of the warrantless wiretapping; indefinite detention in violation of the Constitution; torture as a part of indefinite detention and other ways; special rendition and torture, which is the outsourcing of torture... All of these violate various laws of the US, and they also violate his oath office which he swears to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, and he’s doing just the opposite, he’s undermining the Constitution and attempting to destroy certain parts of it,” Goodman said.

Meanwhile, at least eight (8) US cities, including Arcata, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco, each in California; and Brookfield, Dummerston, Marlboro, Newfane, and Putney, each in Vermont, have passed resolutions calling for Bush’s impeachment.

The recent city resolutions in Vermont have directly led to US Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) having signed H. Res 635 on March 09, 2006, David Swanson, 36, Washington DC Director of ImpeachPAC, asserted in an interview with Atlanta Progressive News.

“One of the big stories here is the town resolutions helped someone sign on the resolution that could move us in the direction of impeachment. Even though getting your city or town to pass a resolution doesn’t legally force the house to impeach, it can compel your congress member to get on board,” Swanson said.

Sanders’s Office did not provide a statement about his co-sponsoring H. Res 635, prior to deadline, and referred this writer to an official statement on Sanders’s website.

“I can very well understand why the citizens of Newfane, Putney, Dummerston, Marlboro, and Brookfield voted yesterday to support the impeachment of President Bush and ask me, as Vermont’s Congressman, to introduce those articles. It is my view that President Bush’s Administration has been a disaster for our country, and a number of actions that he has taken may very well have been illegal,” Sanders said. Sanders, the only Independent, or non-Democrat, currently co-sponsoring H. Res 635, is current for US Senate to replace retiring US Senator Jim Jefforts (I-VT).

However, Sanders stopped short of saying he would introduce outright articles of impeachment, saying citizens should focus on getting Republicans out of power in the 2006 election if they want to end Bush’s disastrousness. Signing H. Res 635 indicates Sanders’s support for a more exploratory investigation.

Mr. Swanson, along with Bob Fertik of Democrats.com, have been perhaps the most prominent citizen activists on this issue. ImpeachPAC was featured in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week. “Bob has been pushing for impeachment since Gore won the election. This is Bob’s moment now after five years,” Swanson said.

US Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) was the other latest member of US Congress to sign on to the bill. Capuano’s Office did not immediately return calls from Atlanta Progressive News.

Over 14% of US House Democrats now support the impeachment probe; almost 7% of all US House Representatives now support the probe. In December 2005, there were 231 Republicans in the US House, 202 Democrats, 1 Independent, and 1 vacancy, a clerk for the US House of Representatives told Atlanta Progressive News.

The best represented states on H. Res 635 are California (7), New York (6), Massachusetts (3), Georgia (2), Minnesota (2), and Wisconsin (2).

The current 30 total co-sponsors are Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA), Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), Rep. John Olver (D-MA), Rep. Major Owens (D-NY), Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Martin Sabo (D-MN), Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Fortney Pete Stark (D-CA), Rep. John Tierney (D-MA), Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).

“I have a Citizen Co-sponsorship page on my website, http://johnconyers.com, where over 42,000 people have added their names to the 30 Members of Congress calling for the creation of a special committee to investigate possible impeachable offenses. My website also has a form for people to write a letter-to-the-editor for their local newspaper. It is grassroots activity like this, and the efforts of thousands of others, that has led to greater awareness of and support for my resolution,” Rep. Conyers told Atlanta Progressive News.

“What a lot of activists group want is the next step, which is Articles of Impeachment. You don’t have to pass this type of bill first. I think there’s a fair chance that if the list of co-sponsors grows dramatically, Conyers and others will take that next step of introducing articles of impeachment,” Swanson said.

At least two members of Congress are prepared to sign such a bill if it were to be introduced, sources tell Atlanta Progressive News. One of them is US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), whose office clarified earlier Associated Press reports, by saying Lewis would indeed sign such a bill, assuming that any bill of impeachment would of course be introduced as a result of a thorough process, such as one including the investigation called for in H. Res 635.

Shocking allegations appeared in The Baltimore Chronicle today. Dave Lindorff writes that he and Barbara Olshansky (also an attorney at CCR) will reveal in an upcoming book that “members of Congress–even firebrands like Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Cynthia McKinney (D-GA)–have been strong-armed behind the scenes by the Democratic National Committee not to introduce an impeachment bill in the House.”

Conyers’s bill was initially referred to the US House Rules Committee, which has not taken action. None of the US House Democrats on the Rules Committee have signed on as co-sponsors. The Ranking Democrat on the Committee is US Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY). Democratic members of the Committee are Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Doris Matsui (D-CA), and James McGovern (D-MA). Republicans currently outnumber Democrats on the committee by about a two-to-one ratio.

The US House Rules Committee would need to take action on H. Res 635 because it calls for the creation of a Select Committee, in other words the creation of a new committee that is not a standing committee, Jonathan Godfrey, Communications Director for US Rep. Conyers, told Atlanta Progressive News. Such a Committee would need to be staffed, Godfrey noted.

If the Democratic Party is able to retake the US House of Representatives, Rep. Conyers would become Chairman Conyers of the House Judiciary Committee, whereas he is currently the Ranking Democrat on the Committee. The Judiciary Committee would oversee any actual impeachment investigation.

If not acted on this session, the bill would have to be reintroduced next session. It is possible that a new bill could include new language regarding Bush's approval of illegal NSA domestic wiretapping.

For now, however, sources in Washington DC tell Atlanta Progressive News that H. Res 635 is a venue for coalition among members of Congress who are willing to consider impeachment for a variety of reasons.

Even though H. Res 635 does not specifically reference the NSA domestic wiretapping issue, some Members of US Congress have found the wiretapping issue to be a compelling reason to sign on as a co-sponsor, sources say.

In other words, why introduce separate legislation to address a single issue when momentum has been built with H. Res 635?

The thing about H. Res. 635 is, it deals with impeaching Bush over a cluster of issues from misleading the public to go to war, to authorizing torture. Wiretapping was not listed as one of the reasons to investigate the grounds for Bush's impeachment in the bill because the existence of the secret, illegal wiretapping had not come to light yet when the bill was being prepared.

US Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) withdrew her name from H. Res 635 last month, whereas she had been listed as a cosponsor throughout January 2006. Lofgren cited a clerical error for her name having been listed in the first place. Lofgren's Office told Atlanta Progressive News the Representative learned of her being listed as a co-sponsor after reading an exclusive article by Atlanta Progressive News issued January 01, 2006.

H. Res 635 reads as its official title: "Creating a select committee to investigate the Administration's intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment."

Atlanta Progressive News has provided near-exclusive–and during most times, exclusive–coverage of the progress of H. Res 635. We will continue to follow this story and any related developments.