By John Bresnahan / Politico
Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) is urging the House Judiciary Committee to
begin impeachment hearings against Vice President Dick Cheney, despite
opposition from House Democratic leaders.
"In this time, at this moment, Congress must stand for truth," Wexler
said in a speech on the House floor Monday night. "A growing chorus of
Americans is calling for accountability. The response from Congress thus
far has been silence and denial."
Wexler's speech was met by applause from spectators in the House
gallery, resulting in a warning to them to be quiet.
Wexler, who first gained national attention for defending former
President Bill Clinton during his impeachment in 1998, said Cheney has
to be ousted in order to restore the balance of power between the
executive and legislative branches, which in his view, has been eroded
by an ever-expanding claim of authority under Cheney and President Bush.
"There's a litany of issues that need to be heard," Wexler said in an
interview earlier in the day. "This administration has abused the power
of executive privilege. This administration has completely avoided
testifying before Congress on any one of a host of six, seven, eight
“Whether we are talking about the manipulation of intelligence on Iraq,”
he went on, “whether we are talking about the outing of a covert CIA
agent, whether we're talking about the illegal use of torture, whether
we're talking about the potentially unlawful firing of U.S. prosecutors
- on all of these issues, the administration has thus far successfully
used the power of executive privilege."
But impeachment hearings would be different, Wexler said, since the
White House could not raise a privilege claim in order to avoid
answering questions from lawmakers.
"In an impeachment hearing, the administration does not have the power
of executive privilege," Wexler said, noting that the secret tapes that
helped bring down President Richard Nixon did not surface until the
House Judiciary Committee began impeachment hearings.
At the Republican National Committee, press secretary Alex Conant
dismissed Wexler’s impeachment call as a “publicity stunt.”
“Wexler is a partisan bomb-thrower hoping to earn points with the far
Left,” Conant said. “His absurd calls for impeachment hearings are
little more than a vain attempt to make himself relevant.”
The House voted on Nov. 6 on a resolution by Rep. Dennis Kucinich
(D-Ohio) to bring articles of impeachment against Cheney for pushing for
the 2003 invasion of Iraq, repeatedly suggesting that there ties between
al Qaeda and the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and advocating
military action to overthrow Iran.
When Republicans, in a bid to embarrass House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and
other Democratic leaders, voted for the measure, the House was thrown
into a brief deadlock. The measure was eventually approved and sent to
the Judiciary Committee, where Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) has
declined to take action, despite pressure from Wexler and liberal
activists outside Congress.
Wexler has created a website (wexlerwantshearings.com
<http://www.wexlerwantshearings.com/>) and plans to enter into the
Congressional Record the names of Americans who support impeachment
hearings on Cheney.
"I was overwhelmed with the response," Wexler said of his website.
"188,000 people from all 50 states have signed a petition demanding that
Congress have hearings regarding the impeachment of the vice president.
I am going to present those petitions, those online petitions, to the
Congress." Wexler said he would enter into the Congressional Record the
maximum number of names each day over the next few month until every
person's name is recorded.
Impeaching Cheney, or forcing him to step down, remains a cherished goal
for many liberal activists, despite the fact that the Bush
administration has only a year left in office. Former Sen. George
McGovern (D-S.D.), the Democratic presidential nominee defeated by Nixon
in 1972, recently issued a public call for the impeachment of both Bush
"Bush and Cheney are guilty of numerous impeachable offenses," McGovern
wrote in a recent op-ed in The Washington Post. "They have repeatedly
violated the Constitution. They have transgressed national and
international law. They have lied to the American public time after
time. They conduct and barbaric policies have reduced our beloved
country to a historic low in the eyes of the people of the world. These
are truly 'high crimes and misdemeanors," to use the constitutional
Wexler argues that the length of time left for the Bush administration
in office should have no bearing on any decision to go through with
impeachment hearings on Cheney.
"The truth does not have a timeline. Even if it was only for history's
sake," Wexler said. "As a result of the abuses of power of this
administration, we have now today an imbalance of power between the
Congress and the president. The executive [branch] has usurped too much
of the legislative branch's power. And one of the powers of the
legislature to check a run amok executive is the power of impeachment.
That power, in my mind, needs to be exercised, whether it's the first
year of an administration or the last year."
Informant: John Calvert/