Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., a member of the House of Representatives so Constitutionally-minded that he wrote a book on the subject, responded as a founding father would have to the news that President Bush had commuted the 30-month prison sentence of former White House insider I. “Scooter” Libby.
How so? By calling for consideration of the impeachment of the president for abusing the pardoning – and the related commutation of sentences — privileges of his office.
“In her first weeks as leader of the Congress, Speaker Nancy Pelosi withdrew the notion of impeachment proceedings against either President Bush or Vice President Cheney,” announced Jackson. “With the president’s decision to once again subvert the legal process and the will of the American people by commuting the sentence of convicted felon Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, I call on House Democrats to reconsider impeachment proceedings. Lewis Libby was convicted of lying under oath to cover up the outing of active, undercover CIA agent, Valerie Plame. It is beyond unthinkable that the president would undermine the legal process to protect a man who engaged in treason against the United States government, threatening the security of the American people. In November’s election, voters put Democrats in charge of Congress because they believed our pledge of oversight and accountability. Now it’s time for us to honor that pledge. The Executive Branch should be held responsible for its illegalities. Our democratic system is grounded in the principle of checks and balances. When the Executive Branch disregards the will of the people, our lawmakers must not be silent. Today’s actions, coupled with the president’s unwillingness to comply with Senate and House inquiries, leave Democrats with no other option than to consider impeachment so that we can gather the information needed to achieve justice for all Americans.”
The founders were exceptionally clear on the question of what should be done if a president abuses his privilege to pardon an associate, or by extension to commute the sentence of an aide.
James Madison, who is rightly referred to as “the father of the Constitution,” wrote extensively about the times in which impeachment would be necessary. “[If] the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds to believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty,” observed the man whose notes provide the essential outline of the deliberations of the Constitutional convention.