- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 26, 2008

Democratic and liberal supporters of impeaching President Bush told the House Judiciary Committee Friday that his behavior toward Congress and the war in Iraq justifies removing him from office.

But the panel’s chairman downplayed implications that the hearing could start the process of removing Mr. Bush from office.

“To the regret of many, this is not an impeachment hearing,” said Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, noting that the House would have to approve any hearings that could move formally on impeachment.

Some Democratic members of the committee, plus many in the audience, were more enthusiastic, accusing Mr. Bush of misleading Americans to justify the Iraq war, violating federal law by authorizing torture on detainees and ignoring the authority of Congress to investigate purported abuses.

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat and sponsor of impeachment resolutions against Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, called the Iraq war “totally unnecessary, unprovoked and unjustified.”

“The decision before us is whether to demand accountability for one of the gravest injustices imaginable,” Mr. Kucinich said in his testimony as a witness.

His testimony was applauded by war protesters at the hearing, some of whom were escorted from the room by police after raising their voices with political epithets.

Despite his insistence about the nature of Friday’s hearings, Mr. Conyers said some members of Congress might consider the accusations presented to be impeachable offenses: manipulating intelligence reports to imply Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction, illegally authorizing torture and detentions without hearings and using the Justice Department to retaliate against critics such as former CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Rep. Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin Democrat, said the refusal of Bush administration officials to testify before Congress was an abuse of the president’s authority.

“The list of congressional subpoenas with which administration officials refused to comply is long,” Miss Baldwin said.

She mentioned Karl Rove, once senior adviser to Mr. Bush, who refused to testify on allegations Justice Department prosecutions were used for political vendettas.

“This administration has soundly rebuffed nearly every attempt to investigate and made true accountability impossible,” she said.

Republicans said there was little chance of any resolution winning the majority vote the House would need to impeach a president. They also said impeachment would set a dangerous precedent by punishing a president for his political policies rather than misconduct.

“There’s no evidence in these allegations of the president violating his oath of office,” said Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican.

Former Los Angeles County prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, best known for his 1970 prosecution of the Charles Manson gang, said Mr. Bush’s actions in Iraq met the standards for murder prosecution.

“The terrible reality is the Bush administration has gotten away with thousands and thousands or murders,” Mr. Bugliosi said in his testimony.

But constitutional law professors also warned against misconstruing Article II of the U.S. Constitution, which says the president, vice president and other political officials “shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Jeremy Rabkin, a George Mason University law professor, said Bush administration critics might be using threats of impeachment to express anger toward the president over policy matters.

“So there are strong temptations to appeal to the people who think this way by escalating charges in this area,” Mr. Rabkin said.



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