FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Congress Needs to Stop Playing on Bush’s Court

 

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

 

 

 

More articles by:

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).

February 20, 2019
Anthony DiMaggio
Withdrawal Pains and Syrian Civil War: An Analysis of U.S. Media Discourse
Charles Pierson
When Saudi Arabia Gets the Bomb
Doug Johnson Hatlem
“Electability” is Real (Unless Married with the Junk Science of Ideological Spectrum Analysis)
Kenneth Surin
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline: Another Boondoggle in Virginia
John Feffer
The Psychology of the Wall
Dean Baker
Modern Monetary Theory and Taxing the Rich
Russell Mokhiber
Citizens Arrested Calling Out Manchin on Rockwool
George Ochenski
Unconstitutional Power Grabs
Michael T. Klare
War With China? It’s Already Under Way
Thomas Knapp
The Real Emergency Isn’t About the Wall, It’s About the Separation of Powers
Manuel García, Jr.
Two Worlds
Daniel Warner
The Martin Ennals and Victorian Prize Winners Contrast with Australia’s Policies against Human Dignity
Norman Solomon
What the Bernie Sanders 2020 Campaign Means for Progressives
Dan Corjescu
2020 Vision: A Strategy of Courage
Matthew Johnson
Why Protest Trump When We Can Impeach Him?
William A. Cohn
Something New and Something Old: a Story Still Being Told
Bill Martin
The Fourth Hypothesis: the Present Juncture of the Trump Clarification and the Watershed Moment on the Washington Mall
February 19, 2019
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Troublesome Possibilities: The Left and Tulsi Gabbard
Patrick Cockburn
She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Literature and Theater During War: Why Euripides Still Matters
Maximilian Werner
The Night of Terror: Wyoming Game and Fish’s Latest Attempt to Close the Book on the Mark Uptain Tragedy
Conn Hallinan
Erdogan is Destined for Another Rebuke in Turkey
Nyla Ali Khan
Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward
Mark Ashwill
On the Outside Looking In: an American in Vietnam
Joyce Nelson
Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuelan-Border PR Stunt
Ron Jacobs
Day of Remembrance and the Music of Anthony Brown        
Cesar Chelala
Women’s Critical Role in Saving the Environment
February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
Thomas Knapp
The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC
Mitchel Cohen
A Tale of Two Citations: Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Michael Harrington’s “The Other America”
Jake Johnston
Haiti and the Collapse of a Political and Economic System
Dave Lindorff
It’s Not Just Trump and the Republicans
Laura Flanders
An End to Amazon’s Two-Bit Romance. No Low-Rent Rendezvous.
Patrick Walker
Venezuelan Coup Democrats Vomit on Green New Deal
Natalie Dowzicky
The Millennial Generation Will Tear Down Trump’s Wall
Nick Licata
Of Stress and Inequality
Joseph G. Ramsey
Waking Up on President’s Day During the Reign of Donald Trump
Elliot Sperber
Greater Than Food
Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail