The cries for impeachment and removal of President Bush and/or Vice President Cheney from many on the Left have been heard for a few years now, but it is interesting to see how they themselves view such possibilities. One such analysis is provided by “Daimeon”, who posts on the ever-so-liberal blog Pam’s House Blend. In this we see what I can only describe as Bush Derangement Syndrome in an unreasonable desire for the removal of both or either man by just about any means necessary, somewhat tempered by a woeful ignorance of how the impeachment process is outlined in the Constitution. For someone who claims a connection to the United States Air Force, one would think they would at least be more familiar with the actual document he possibly swore (or affirmed) to “support and defend” in the Oath of Enlistment. It’s not as if finding the text of the United States Constitution online is all that difficult. One could even start with Google if they do not know where to find it online.
Daimeon begins his review of possible impeachment scenarios he envisions by writing:
Scenario number 1 and the one most discussed right now as a “two pronged approached,” Impeach the Vice President:
Vice President Cheney is Impeached. While this seems like a good strategy to prevent him from becoming president should Bush be impeached, Mr. Bush still has the presidential power of granting pardons. The house would vote for impeachment which is the equivalent of charging the person of a crime and Mr. Bush would pardon him and wipe the slate clean. Cheney could not be charged again for the same crimes and would remain the veep.
The problem with this analysis is that it ignores the very clear text of Article II, Section 2, which states that the President “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment” (emphasis mine). In other words, President Bush could pardon Vice President Cheney for any alleged criminal activity but has absolutely no power to prevent his impeachment and removal from office. Despite all the trappings in the proceedings, impeachment in the House and trial in the Senate are political acts and not judicial. Congress has no authority to levy criminal or civil penalties in an impeachment and trial process, as stated in Article 1, Section 3:
Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States: but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law.
That an impeached official who is removed from office after a Senate trial, still faces the possibility of criminal or civil proceedings in the courts should be enough to put that misunderstanding to rest. In fact, even if an official is not impeached in the House or after being impeached is acquitted in the Senate, they are subject to criminal and civil penalties in the courts like every other citizen. Thus, there is no “double jeopardy” protection preventing Congress from trying again to impeach and remove from office an official no matter how many times they previously fail. This is contrary to what one finds in a criminal trial where the Fifth Amendment affords the accused protection from being “subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb”.
Daimeon continues with a second scenario which he envisions being:
Scenario number 2: Impeach the President
George W. Bush is impeached towards the end of his second term. While the president can’t pardon himself, he’s already played the best hand any administration could have. In fact, the Republicans have allowed and helped the administration “stack the deck” just for this reason. Two words: Supreme Court. Mr. Bush has successfully appointed two of his cronies in the SCOTUS, Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justice Alito. In the event of the president’s impeachment, the Chief Justice presides over the trial as the senate president, a position normally taken by the Vice President but due to the possible succession of the president by the veep it would be a conflict of interest. The Chief Justice could call an end to the trial before it even began or came to a vote to get the two thirds required vote to convict. The President would return to his normal duties and pretty much chastise those who brought charges against him and sadly business would return to what is considered normal under this tyrannical administration.
Contrary to Daimeon’s assertion that a “president can’t pardon himself”, one should recall that “except in cases of impeachment” the Constitution places zero restrictions on the president in granting pardons. In theory at least, the president can pardon himself though this has never been done before and would ignite a political firestorm of enormous proportions. Nevertheless, the president could act thusly without any constitutional impediment preventing him from doing so.
Daimeon next erroneously asserts that any possible impeachment trial of President Bush would be thwarted by the presence of Chief Justice John Roberts, whom he “appointed” to office. As stated in Art. I, Sect. 3 of the Constitution, “the Chief Justice shall preside” over any such trial in the Senate of an impeached president. What Daimeon sees as a nefarious “stack[ing of] the deck” preventing a possible conviction of an impeached Mr. Bush, turns out to be nothing more than misguided and woeful ignorance. First of all it should be mentioned that although the current Chief Justice was nominated by President Bush, he was confirmed by a vote of 78-22 in the Senate which included exactly half of the then-Democrat caucus. Second, one should recall that in the two previous instances of trial of impeached presidents in the Senate, the presiding of the seemingly ‘friendly’ (to those wishing to remove Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton) Chief Justices Salmon Chase or William Rehnquist made no difference whatsoever to the outcome of either. Thirdly, this notion by Daimeon that Chief Justice Roberts could thwart any impeachment trial in the Senate is shown to be absurd when one notes that each House in Congress makes it own rules by majority vote, as outlined in Art. 1 Sect. 5. The presiding officer, in this case the Chief Justice, can only delay things if they so choose through parliamentary procedure, which can be easily quashed by a majority of the Senate. He has no authority on his own to dismiss the charges against an impeached official, to suspend or “call an end to the trial before it even began or came to a vote”, etc. Such actions are taken by vote of the Senators, a vote which the Chief Justice does not have himself. Need I even have to mention which party holds the majority in both the Senate and the House since January 2007?
Finally, we’ve already seen an impeached president who was acquitted in the Senate “chastise those who brought charges against him and sadly business would return to what is considered normal”. Indeed, President Clinton put on a remarkable performance calling his impeachment “illegitimate” and how he “saved the United States Constitution“. In such a hypothetical scenario as Daimeon presents, Mr. Bush would have to have a lot more chutzpah than this all while charming the general public with a wink and a smile. Such is possible I suppose but unlikely. President Bush has lost a significant number of his own political base with unfortunate maneuvers as the recent controversial immigration bill, making any friendly allies in Congress opposing legitimate reasons for his impeachment difficult if not impossible to find in numbers that would prevent such an action. Yet in order for Messrs. Bush and/or Cheney to be impeached and removed from office convincing evidence of criminal wrongdoing would have to be presented and thus far what the Left has provided has been, to put it mildly, found to be lacking. If it could be shown that either President Bush or Vice President Cheney have criminally violated their oath of office, I for one would support such a move but until then while I have my own reasons in looking forward to them leaving office, I see no reason to invoke the impeachment and removal clauses of the Constitution to short-circuit their terms. Politically such a move would probably be disastrous for Democrats as it was for Republicans when they impeached then-President Clinton in 1998. Of course the Democrats hold the majority in the House and can make such a move for impeachment if they choose, damning the consequences Admiral Farragut-style. Yet if such a move is made it would be far better for them to do so based upon something of more substance, rather than rely upon the tripe presented by Leftist activists like Daimeon which display quite an amusing ignorance of the very process they wish to use in order to achieve their objectives.
– John (Average Gay Joe)