The news from former vice presidential chief of staff “Scooter” Libby’s trial on charges of obstructing a federal investigation — particularly the revelation that Vice President Dick Cheney wrote a memo that effectively confirms his intimate involvement in strategizing about how to counter the inquiry into the Bush administration’s politically-motivated outing of CIA operative Valarie Plame — should slowly but surely edge the prospect of impeachment back onto the table from which Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi removed it.
Cheney is expected to testify in the Libby trial and, if a federal jury rejects his testimony as less than credible, that would seem to create an appropriate opening for members of the House who take seriously their oaths to protect and defend the Constitution to entertain a discussion of impeaching the vice president.
Intriguingly, Cheney almost found himself in the middle of the discussion this week.
Prior to CNN personality Wolf Blitzer’s testy-if-not-particularly substantive interview with the vice president on Wednesday, the network’s resident rabble rouser, commentator Jack Cafferty, presented a reasonably favorable feature on a move by New Mexico state Senators Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, and John Grubesic, D-Santa Fe, to get that state’s legislature to petition Congress to impeach both Cheney and Bush.
The New Mexico impeachment initiative, one of several currently moving forward in state legislatures around the country, is designed to force members of Congress to take seriously the increasingly-popular demand that the president and vice president be held to account for misleading Congress over the Iraq war, supporting torture, engaging in illegal spying on U.S. citizens and using their offices to punish critics. “I am an American citizen that believes that the Constitution is a sacred document and that the Bush administration clearly does not share this sentiment,” explains Grubesic, while Ortiz y Pino says, “We’re simply doing what all elected officials should be doing. That is, listening to the voice of the people and trying to carry it out as best we can.”
The New Mexico legislators have taken their cue from Thomas Jefferson, who in a manual of congressional procedures written more than two centuries ago affirmed that state legislatures could petition the House to impeach federal officials. The third president explained in Section 603 of his Manual on Parliamentary Practice and Rules of the House of Representatives, a volume that is still referred to by House leaders for precedents and guidance, that: “there are various methods of setting an impeachment in motion”: 1) By charges made on the floor by a member of the House; 2) By charges preferred by a memorial filed by a House member; 3) By charges contained in a Resolution introduced by a House member; 4) By a message from the President; 5) By charges transmitted by a State legislature, or a grand jury; 5) By facts developed and reported by an investigating committee of the House.”