Conyers Not Yet Ready to Impeach
By Ethan Wallison
Roll Call Staff
February 25, 2004
An aide to House Judiciary ranking member John Conyers (D) denied Tuesday that the Michigan lawmaker is drafting articles of impeachment against President Bush, but declined to close the door on that prospect.
"We are aware of no plans to file articles of impeachment at present," the aide said.
The demurral came in response to comments made Sunday by Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader. Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," Nader suggested, in the course of reaffirming his own support for Bush's impeachment, that Conyers "is going to file such a request."
"Our Founding Fathers gave the Congress the right to fire the president. It shouldn't be such a big deal," Nader said. "For far more trivial reasons, you know, Clinton was impeached."
Calls for Bush's impeachment have been common on the political left for at least a year, emerging as the Bush administration was in the final stages of its preparation for the Iraq invasion.
Several Web sites, including Democrats.com and VoteToImpeach.com, are, in varying degrees, devoted to the idea.
In March 2003, Conyers met privately at a downtown office with a group of prominent left-wing attorneys and legal scholars to hear arguments on the matter. Conyers was the only lawmaker to attend, though his office had invited a number of other "anti-war" Members to participate.
Some attendees, led by former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, had already drafted preliminary articles of impeachment in hopes of encouraging Members of Congress to take the issue seriously. But the vast majority of participants opposed taking such measures, according to those who attended.
Ensuing reports indicated that Conyers had decided to drop the matter. But within months the Michigan lawmaker took to the House floor to decry what he called a "threat to democracy" posed by the Bush administration's actions on Iraq.
While Conyers never said the word "impeachment" in his speech, he suggested the questions surrounding the Iraq war merited a thorough examination at his committee, Judiciary, which would draw up any such articles. He also cited approvingly a then-recent essay in which Nixon White House counsel John Dean argued for Bush's impeachment.
"It deserves wide dissemination," Conyers said.
While voicing similar charges, Democratic leaders have steered clear of supporting actions such as impeachment in response. Referring to Nader's remarks about Conyers' plans, a Democratic leadership aide on Tuesday said, "Until he actually files [articles], it's not something we're focused on."
Conyers and other critics of President Bush on the far left and far right have argued, among other things, that his administration "misled" the country about the extent of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programs and the nearness of the threat posed by them, and that the administration "usurped" Congress' sole authority to declare war.
The administration and its supporters contend that the administration relied on universally accepted intelligence about Iraq's weapons stockpiles, even if no significant find has been made to date, and that action needed to occur, as Bush said, "before the threat is imminent." They also note that Congress approved a resolution in October 2002 that authorized war at the president's discretion.
Nader, who used his television appearance on Sunday to announce his candidacy for president, has previously suggested the Iraq war made Bush not only "beatable but impeachable."
Asked by the show's host, Tim Russert, whether Bush's impeachment would be "part of [his] platform" in running, Nader responded that he believes it is "very important for the American people to take what happened last year very, very seriously."