The Case For Impeachment: High Crimes And Misdemeanors
Theodore E. Lang
The Case For Impeachment: High Crimes And Misdemeanors
Mon Jan 19 19:23:05 2004

The Case For Impeachment: High Crimes And Misdemeanors 


The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United
States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction
of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors. -United
States Constitution, Article II, Section 4

(ICH) It seems that everyone who reads that phrase, "high crimes and
misdemeanors," must know what it means, whether one experiences that
expression for the first time, or whether it serves as a tired and worn
out qualifier justifying the impeachment of a sitting president. And it
is doubtful that the average American even knows what impeachment means
- they assume it means removal from office. But look again at the
precise wording offered in Article II of our Constitution; it clearly
indicates that removal from office can occur only after both impeachment
and conviction.

The impeachment process begins in the House of Representatives. It is a
statement of charges against the office holder clearly indicating
conduct that can be described as treason, bribery, or "high crimes and
misdemeanors." The House votes on the articles of impeachment itemized
by its judiciary committee, and then the matter is referred to the
Senate, the latter deciding upon a trial by majority vote. In the case
of President Bill Clinton, the House formally declared a statement of
charges, but the Senate voted against the trial. And conviction requires
a two-thirds majority of the Senate.

This brings us full circle to the term "high crimes and misdemeanors," a
curiosity of terms. How can a crime and a misdemeanor be equated? A high
crime is obviously a much greater offense and at a higher level than any
misdemeanor, high or otherwise. It would seem the term is a catchall to
ensure that any modicum of illegal behavior perpetrated by an office
holder could qualify as an impeachable offense, but this is not so. The
key to assessing whether or not official behavior is an impeachable
offense does not hinge upon whether an act is or is not a criminal
offense; it is dependent upon official misconduct such that it violates
the public trust. Violation of criminal law is not an absolute basis for
impeachment, but of course, it can be, as in the case of bribery or

It is clear that impeachment's primary purpose is to remove from office,
an office holder that has violated the public trust such that lying to
the American people is construed as seriously damaging the government of
the United States. Much of this information is available from Ann
Coulter's book, High Crimes and Misdemeanors - The case against Bill
Clinton [ 1998 - Regnery, Washington]. Coulter, in what is obviously
a heavily partisan effort to pile on to the Clinton Impeachment process,
sought to inform and educate the public, and the first chapter of her
book does so in spades. But it also provides some solid comparisons,
comparisons that now cry for the immediate impeachment of our current
president, George W. Bush.

Coulter makes a solid case citing that Republican former President,
Richard M. Nixon, committed far less crimes that could be characterized
as endangering the security of the nation than did Clinton. She offers:
"While Clinton's defenders act as if an impeachable offense must be some
immediate threat to the nation - such as the discovery that the
president was conspiring with communist agents to turn over vital
missile technology to Red China - impeachment was intended to be used,
and always has been used, to remove officers who simply 'behave amiss.'"
Of course, as we all know, Clinton was neither accused of transferring
missile technology, nor was it proven that he "conspired" to sell
technology. The sarcastic comparison was orchestrated to minimize
Nixon's transgressions to that of Clinton's by introducing "facts" that
never came out in the impeachment process.

But Coulter's effort does lend heavily to an understanding of precisely
what impeachment is about, and one thing she readily admits, impeachment
cannot originate as a policy disagreement or a partisan attack, which is
precisely what her reference to a technology transfer tried to imply.
The most valuable information offered regarding impeachment, is the
laundry list provided citing the "general categories of impeachable
conduct that developed in the four hundred years of use in Great

Corruption Betrayal of trust Abuse of Official Power Neglect of Duty
Encroachment on Parliament's prerogatives Misapplication of funds

Looking at these basics, the case for impeachment against President
George W. Bush becomes immediately clear. A betrayal of trust screams
for recognition as the most impeachable offense of the Bush
administration. Before ascertaining why, let's examine Coulter's take on
presidential lying: "If Nixon telling one lie, not under oath,
constituted the creation of an 'Imperial Presidency' [Anthony Lewis -
New York Times] demanding the president's impeachment, what has Clinton
created by telling repeated lies, not only to the public, but under
oath? Lying to the American people is a clear betrayal of trust."
[Emphasis added].

But Coulter further builds the case by citing the charges handed down by
the House Judiciary Committee against Nixon:
In all of this, Richard M. Nixon has acted in a manner contrary to his
trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the
great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest
injury of the people of the United States.
Wherefore, Richard M. Nixon, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and
trial, and removal from office.

It can be argued that Clinton lied under oath in a court case, but as
Coulter correctly points out, Nixon did not! But his televised lies, as
well as his attempted cover-up of the Watergate break-in, are what did
him in. But certainly, lying to the American people while delivering the
constitutionally mandated [Article II, Section 3] State of the Union
equates to lying while under oath in a court case. Bush tricked us into
an unnecessary war, a war that is killing and maiming members of our
military. The "yellowcake" fraud was just that, and Bush was warned by
the CIA not to use that in his SOTU speech. Even if Bush made an honest
mistake here, and that's a real difficult assumption to make, he did so
with an obvious reckless disregard whether or not it was true.

The non-existent weapons of mass destruction, the ability on the part of
Saddam to readily access them in 45 minutes for the defense of his
nation, are now all established as bald-faced lies. And Secretary of
State Colin Powel's promise to produce a white paper proving al Qaeda's
involvement in 9-11 never materialized either. The revelation by former
Secretary of the Treasury, Paul O'Neill, this past week that the Bush
administration's first and most critical order of business was bringing
down Saddam, puts additional focus on 9-11, especially in light of the
fact that President George Bush was warned of the possibility of an al
Qaeda terrorist attack one full month BEFORE 9-11. Precisely what
precautionary and preventive measures did the Bush administration take
to protect American lives? Did Bush and his neoconservative PNAC cabal
act after 9-11 to help justify "regime change" in Iraq? What proof of a
connection is there that would tie Iraq to 9-11?

Coulter again: "Article I charged Nixon with, among other things, making
or causing to be made false or misleading statements for the purpose of
deceiving the people of the United States into believing that a thorough
and complete investigation had been conducted" Can that "false
investigation" now be compared to the Kean 9-11 commission that Bush has
stonewalled, and from which 28 pages of a preliminary report was
redacted? What of the funding blocks thrown up by Bush concerning this
investigation, the purpose of which was to report the events of 9-11 to
the American people? And as concerns requested answers to the commission
relative to the National Security briefing one month before 9-11, this
joint committee, set up by both the Congress and the White House and
precluding the invocation of "executive privilege," has been continually
denied answers from the Bush administration.
Bush's proven lying, especially during the State of the Union, his
cover-ups, and refusal to provide important information on 9-11 to the
people and its Congress, constitute a betrayal of trust, encroachment of
Congressional prerogatives and abuse of power. His beforehand knowledge
of an imminent terrorist attack on 9-11, as well as his failure to do
anything to either mitigate or prevent the terrorism, constitutes a
neglect of duty.

Although nothing can be identified per se as corruption other than the
Halliburton and Bechtel contracts in violation of federal procurement
law, combined with the totally unnecessary war initiated
unconstitutionally via the compliance of Congress, a misled Congress it
should be added, it would seem that blatant corruption is not a readily
recognizable shortcoming of this presidency. Bush has misapplied funds
somewhat in terms of refusing to fund the Kean Commission at times, as
well as failing to follow through on funding applications approved by
Congress. But as cited in Article I of the Nixon Impeachment, Bush has
perpetrated severe transgressions and assaults causing activities
"subversive of constitutional government" via his administration's
U.S.A. Patriot Acts I and II, rushed through Congress based upon his
lies, cover-ups and neglect of duty relative to 9-11.

Realistically, Bush won't be impeached. Republicans control the
government, and only a unified act on the part of a disunited populace
could bring sufficient pressure to bear upon their representatives to
force the much-needed impeachment process against Bush and his PNAC
neoconservative cabal. And even if Democrats did do the right thing and
at least begin an impeachment process, talk radio would offer this as an
election year tactic. And to be sure, the Democratic hopefuls do not
want to be seen as invoking such a cheap, partisan attack upon a sitting
president during an election year.
Ted Lang is a political analyst and a freelance writer.

Theodore E. Lang - All rights reserved 

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