"Dedicated to exposing the lies and impeachable offenses of George W. Bush"

Impeachment chances loom for Bush
January 6, 2006

It's history.

You know, the Clinton impeachment thing. Remember that?

When the Associated Press reported last week that the impeachment of President Clinton had made it into major high school history textbooks, it seemed only fitting. Most adults forgot about the impeachment the instant it was over. Now high school kids can read the story, and as soon as their exams are over, they too can forget it.

So, someday, 2005 might be recalled as the year the Clinton impeachment was relegated to the dustbin of history. But it also might be recalled as the year that paved the way for George W. Bush's impeachment.

With the mid-December revelations of a secret Bush administration domestic wiretapping program carried out by the National Security Agency, commentators - including some Republicans - once more are murmuring about "high crimes and misdemeanors." And with good reason. On its face, the president's no-longer-secret wiretapping program violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The president asserts that on Sept. 14, 2001 - when Congress authorized him to "use all necessary and appropriate force" against those connected to the Sept. 11 attacks - Congress implicitly repealed the act's restrictions on presidential surveillance powers. Besides, he says, as commander in chief, he has the inherent constitutional power to do anything he deems necessary in time of war.

Suzanne Spaulding, a former CIA assistant general counsel, recently pointed out that this is a bizarre legal argument. If Congress' resolution rendered moot any prior legislative restraints on the president's power to conduct domestic surveillance, or if the president's inherent wartime powers trump congressional control, then why did the administration bother to seek renewal of the Patriot Act?

The founding fathers had good reasons for rebelling against Britain's King George III: "He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power ... (he is) abolishing our most valuable laws and altering fundamentally the forms of our Governments." That's why our Constitution created checks and balances.

But that's the Bush administration for you: all checks, no balances.

The NSA's domestic surveillance program is not the only offense with which the president could be charged.

The House Judiciary Committee's Democratic staff recently released a report concluding that Bush "misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war with Iraq." And the 273-page minority report goes on to conclude that "the President, Vice President and members of the Bush administration violated a number of federal laws, including 1) Committing a Fraud against the United States; 2) Making False Statements to Congress; 3) The War Powers Resolution, 4) Misuse of Government Funds; 5) federal laws and international treaties prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment; 6) federal laws concerning retaliating against witnesses and other individuals, and 7) federal laws concerning leakings and other misuses of intelligence."

It's true that as long as Republicans are in control, members of Congress are no more likely to impeach Bush than they are to vote themselves a pay cut. If the Democrats take control of Congress in 2006 - a prospect that is becoming less implausible - the president could find himself in deeper doo doo than his daddy ever dreamed of.

Contact Brooks, an associate professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, at reb2d@virginia.edu.