Accountability Initiative Moves Forward: Impeachment is in ReachDecember 17th, 2007

I’ve been busy for about a month on a behalf of a local discussion group we call Greater Hartford Impeach. Our immediate objective is to get answers to a dozen questions from our member of Congress John Larson. Here are the 12 questions we want answered:

  • The rationale for the resolution purporting to authorize the military occupation of Iraq was based on false and misleading statements by the president. Isn’t lying to Congress a felony?
  • Executive branch officials are holding prisoners without access to legal process. Isn’t this kidnapping?
  • Executive branch officials conducted warrantless wiretapping of Americans. Isn’t this a felony under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act?
  • Executive branch officials interfered in federal prosecutions, removed federal prosecutors for noncompliance with political demands, and committed perjury before congress when asked to remember critical facts relevant to the prosecutors’ removal. Doesn’t this amount to obstruction of justice?
  • The president has defied subpoenas duly issued by Congress. Isn’t it the duty of Congress to enforce its subpoenas with a contempt citation and to enforce that citation by appropriate legal means?
  • Executive branch officials, military and civilian, have tortured prisoners during interrogation. Isn’t this felonious conduct under federal law?
  • The president has issued “signing statements” authorizing or directing federal employees to violate selected provisions of duly enacted laws. Isn’t this contrary to his constitutional oath to see that the laws are faithfully executed?
  • Officials of the executive branch maintain contracts with armed civilians that purport to authorize the killing of other civilians. Isn’t this a violation of the laws prohibiting homicide?
  • As commander-in-chief, the president has permitted the misdirection of billions in cash and government property and has failed to equip soldiers properly. Other than mutiny, isn’t Congress the sole check on criminal malfeasance by the commander-in-chief?
  • Aren’t you and the other members of the House of Representatives the only people in America who can hold the president accountable for these crimes and isn’t it your responsibility to do that, regardless of the political consequences?
  • If you fail to hold the president accountable, aren’t you setting a precedent for future presidents and future congresses not to hold the executive accountable for high crimes?
  • Aren’t you concerned that your failure to act will be seen as a deliberate step in the creation of a presidency that is no longer subject to the rule of law?

Several weeks ago, I hand-delivered a letter to Larson’s Hartford office asking for a few minutes to pose these questions in person. Staffers promised me a meeting, but they didn’t give me a date, and I haven’t heard from anybody in weeks.

This week, I tried again. On Friday I stopped by John Larson’s Hartford office to drop off another letter. In the letter, following up the one I left there a few weeks ago, I referred to the upcoming congressional recess and pleaded again for a few minutes to pose some questions about executive accountability. An employee named Maureen materialized from one of the offices and graciously accepted my missive, promising to send it on to the appropriate people.

Handing the letter to Maureen, I explained that I had left a letter for the congressman just before Thanksgiving, and that I needed only a few minutes to pose our questions. As I did last time I visited, I delivered my letter without an envelope, and I explained to Maureen that it was meant to be open and to be seen by anybody who might handle it. Maureen promised to have Linda, the scheduler, call me. I told Maureen I’d spoken with Linda and had been expecting a call-back from her for a couple of weeks. I bid Maureen a pleasant weekend and left.

An hour later I got a phone call from John Rossi, of Larson’s office. He told me the office was working on responses to our questions and that I wasn’t the only one who had expressed interest in impeachment. That was the first I’d heard of that.

Rossi and I talked briefly about our discussion group’s questions and the overall question of accountability that they raise. I reminded Rossi that Congress holds the purse strings for everything and is the sole law enforcement authority in the case of crimes committed by the president. He seemed sympathetic. He told me the office is in contact with John Conyers, chairman of the committee that would have to initiate articles of impeachment.

I told Rossi that I’m writing up my experiences with Larson’s office, and he agreed with me that there’s too little reporting on the activities of members of Congress. He invited me to call anytime, and I promised to do that.

I’m going to give John Rossi a week or so to get back to me with answers, and then I’m getting back on the phone. In the meantime, we can all watch for developments among members of Conyers’ committee. Readers of Op-Ed news (but not readers of my local paper, the Hartford Courant) know that three Democrats, led by Robert Wexler of Florida, have mounted a campaign to bring Cheney’s impeachment up in committee, and they’re drumming up public support for prompt action. One of the three, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, had been under intense pressure from accountability advocates in her district.

Wexler set up a website to sign people up in support of his petition http://wexlerwantshearings.com/ Thirty thousand signed up in the first 24 hours. Our group set up site for people to sign on to our 12 questions for Larson. It’s at http://www.stepfour.com/xdem/?page_id=98