FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Congress Needs to Stop Playing on Bush’s Court

by DAVE LINDORFF

 

There are two ways to look at the growing confrontation between Congress and the White House over access to information.

Either the administration is suckering Congress into a fight, confident that the Democratic Congress will back down and forever surrender its role as a co-equal branch of government, or that it will bring its contempt citations to federal court and lose, thanks to all those right-wing Federalist judges that Reagan, Bush I and Bush II have stacked the judiciary with from bottom to top.

Or, Congress is pushing the administration to a point that Democrats will be forced to initiate impeachment proceedings.

Naturally, for the sake of the Constitution, and the survival of a government with at least a semblance of democracy, I’m hoping it’s the latter. It would be nice to think that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others in the party leadership have all along been acting on a belief that the American people don’t want impeachment, and have to be brought along to a point that they agree there is no alternative. It would be nice to believe that these leaders really do understand that the Constitution is under grave threat, and that Congress itself is under assault by the administration, but that they just want to be pushed to the wall before they take the required action.

The problem is that if this were the behind-the-scenes strategy, we would not have seen the party leadership actively working to undermine the national grass-roots impeachment movement. We would not have seen senior Democratic elected officials like Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont, or Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Jay Inslee of Washington twisting arms of legislative leaders in those two states’ legislatures in order to prevent passage of joint legislative resolutions calling on the House to impeach. We would not have seen a clearly pro-impeachment representative like John Conyers (D-MI) hammered into an embarrassed silence on impeachment for fear of losing his coveted chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee. We would not have seen 39 representatives who, in 2006 were signing on to a bill that called for an investigation into impeachable crimes sitting on the sidelines on that issue ever since Election Day in November 2006. We would not have seen Dennis Kucinich’s bill calling for Cheney’s impeachment (H. Res 333, submitted on April 24) languishing in the in hopper for over two months without getting a hearing in Conyers’ Judiciary Committee.

So I think this theory of Congressional behavior is simply a liberal pipe dream.

That leaves us with the other scenario: The White House, recognizing the timidity of Congressional Democrats, and its own edge in the courts, has decided to go for broke by challenging Congress to a duel. Certainly the blatant way that Bush has refused to budge on his Iraq War escalation or on Congressional requests for information about issues like the political firing of prosecutors, the warrantless spying on American citizens, or the destruction of improper White House emails, or that Vice President Dick Cheney has refused to provide information of any kind to congressional committees seems designed to taunt Democrats into issuing subpoenas. And the refusal to comply with those subpoenas seems designed to taunt Democrats into declaring the administration in contempt, which puts the issue into court.

Does anyone want to bet on how that will go?

Of all federal court districts, with the exception of Texas, Washington, DC is the most conservative. Larded with Federalist Society judges who believe that the executive branch is supreme, not co-equal with Congress, the odds of the White House’s drawing a judge who will rule in its favor, and of then getting an Appeals Court that will uphold that ruling, are pretty high. And then of course, even if the White House had bad luck, and got an unfavorable lower court ruling, there’s the Supreme Court, which is showing itself to be solidly Federalist.

What this means is that Congress should shift its strategy, and go straight to impeachment.

Why? Because an impeachment hearing is not the same as other Congressional hearings.

Impeachment is a process clearly defined and laid out procedurally in the Constitution. It calls for the House Judiciary to become an Impeachment Committee, giving it a special distinction of being Constitutionally empowered to do its task of investigating presidential or administration wrongdoing. What that means is that a president has no right to claim “executive privilege” or “national security” when asked to provide officials to testify, or to turn over documents.

Of course, the administration could stonewall in the same way it is stonewalling current congressional investigations, but it could not count so readily on the cooperation of ideologically supportive judges this time. Certainly there are political hacks on the federal bench who would vote the president’s way no matter what the issue (Judges Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito come to mind), but I’m not so sure that Chief Justice John Roberts, or even Justice Antonin Scalia fall into that category. To the extent that these and other Federalist Society judicial appointees take their ideology of “original intent” and their role as justices seriously, they would have to find that an impeachment committee demand for testimony or documents trumps such claims as “executive privilege” or “national security.”

The administration would likely lose those battles at every level.

So now Congress has a choice: risk permanently destroying the carefully balanced system of tri-partite government established by the Founding Fathers over two centuries ago by playing the president’s and vice-president’s game of chicken over subpoenas, or change the game and begin impeachment proceedings immediately.

It’s a decision that will have to be made soon.

Let your representatives know what you want them to do. Go to: Democrats.com

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His n book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff’s newest book is “The Case for Impeachment“,
co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.

He can be reached at: dlindorff@yahoo.com

 

 

 

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

More articles by:
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered: a Fragment (Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre)
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail