Three senior members of the House Judiciary Committee have called for the immediate opening of impeachment hearings for Vice President Richard Cheney.
Democrats Robert Wexler of Florida, Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin on Friday distributed a statement, “A Case for Hearings,” that declares, “The issues at hand are too serious to ignore, including credible allegations of abuse of power that if proven may well constitute high crimes and misdemeanors under our constitution. The charges against Vice President Cheney relate to his deceptive actions leading up to the Iraq war, the revelation of the identity of a covert agent for political retaliation, and the illegal wiretapping of American citizens.”
In particular, the Judiciary Committee members cite the recent revelation by former White House press secretary Scott McClellan that the Vice President and his staff purposefully gave him false information about the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert agent as part of a White House campaign to discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson. On the basis of McClellan’s statements, Wexler, Gutierrez and Baldwin say, “it is even more important for Congress to investigate what may have been an intentional obstruction of justice.”The three House members argue that, “Congress should call Mr. McClellan to testify about what he described as being asked to ‘unknowingly [pass] along false information.'”
Adding to the sense of urgency, the members note that “recent revelations have shown that the Administration including Vice President Cheney may have again manipulated and exaggerated evidence about weapons of mass destruction — this time about Iran’s nuclear capabilities.”
Although Wexler, Gutierrez and Baldwin are close to Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers, getting the Michigan Democrat to open hearings on impeachment will not necessarily be easy. Though Conyers was a leader in suggesting during the last Congress that both President Bush and Vice President Cheney had committed impeachable offenses, he has been under immense pressure from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, to keep Constitutional remedies for executive excesses “off the table” in this Congress.
It is notable, however, that Baldwin maintains warm relations with Pelosi and that Wexler, a veteran member of the Judiciary Committee has historically had an amiable and effective working relationship with Conyers. There is no question that Conyers, who voted to keep open the impeachment debate on November 7, has been looking for a way to explore the charges against Cheney. The move by three of his key allies on the committee may provide the chairman with the opening he seeks, although it is likely he will need to hear from more committee members before making any kind of break with Pelosi — or perhaps convincing her that holding hearings on Cheney’s high crimes and misdemeanors is different from putting a Bush impeachment move on the table.