Is Impeachment of Alberto Gonzales Possible?

I'm curious.  Gonzales did lie to Congress and that's a crime.  Is there anything preventing Congress from impeaching and removing him from office?  I read the Constitution again tonight and it's not clear to me.  

Tags: alberto gonzales, impeachment (all tags)

Comments

26 Comments

There is one thing.

No one of any import in Congress has the stones to so much as utter the "I word," let alone do something about it.

by craverguy 2007-03-20 07:48PM | 0 recs
Re: There is one thing.

No one of any import in Congress has the stones to so much as utter the "I word," let alone do something about it.

No-one has the courage to impeach Bush for war-crimes. That's a very different matter than impeaching Gonzales for lying to Congress or obstructing justice.

It doesn't matter whether there are currently votes in the Senate to convict. We're only at the tip of the iceberg. There's a LOT more to be revealed.

This is the perfect fight for Democrats who are too cowardly to vote to cut off funding for Bush's war or even to stop him from attacking Iraq. That's foreign policy, an area where Congress has given up it's Constitutional powers to such a hideous extent that any attempt to assert them leads to a Constitutional crisis.

But, with Bush stonewalling and refusing to let his aides testify it's quite clear cut. Start hearings, and ammassing evidence to see if impeachment is justified.

Such evidence will not be long in forthcoming. It will soon be obvious that the administration is lying about a lot more than just the circumstances of the firings.

I don't know on what grounds Bush can refuse to allow Congress to subpoena executive officers to testify under oath. Perhaps they have packed the federal courts with so many worthless lackeys that they have a chance of winning that legal argument, I don't know.

But, I would think that's an absurd argument. Congress has the subpoena power and can use it to compel testimony. That doesn't unconstitutionally interfere with the perogatives of the executive. Bush is operating as if he's some sort of King, immune from question by Congress. That style of government went out with Charles II back in the 17th century or with the execution of Louis XVII during the French revolution.

Once Gonzalez testifies, he's done. Either he'll lie, in which case he can be impeached. Or he'll tell the truth, in which case the scandal will explode to such dimensions that he'll be forced to resign. Either way, he's done.

Nor can Bush just keep giving the finger to everyone on this issue. It makes him look bad.

Only guilty people object to testifying under oath. That's what the American people think. No matter what Bush says, refusing to let his aides testify makes it look like he's hiding something. And the slow bleeding will continue, day after day.

by Cugel 2007-03-21 06:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Is Impeachment of Alberto Gonzales Possible?

last I checked in one of my poly sci classes, it has been done before to cabinet positions approved by the senate.

I don't recall off hand who or when it happened, late 1800s I think. But sounds possible.

by Trowaman 2007-03-20 07:52PM | 0 recs
Give the winner a pony

William W. Belknap, Grant's Secretary of War, was impeached by a unanimous vote of the House of Representatives for allegedly having received money from merchants in return for appointments to Indian trading posts.  He resigned immediately, and the conviction vote in the Senate failed.

by Adam B 2007-03-20 08:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Give the winner a pony

YES! Free pony!!!

now, how do I earn free grain for life? And a pasture to keep it. and a stable . . .

You can keep your stupid pony . . . grumble grumble

by Trowaman 2007-03-20 08:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Is Impeachment of Alberto Gonzales Possible?

I brought up this exact point a couple weeks ago:

In the history of the United States, the House of Representatives has only availed itself of the power to impeach federal officials seventeen times, and in only one instance has it impeached a cabinet secretary (Ulysses S. Grant's Secretary of War William Belknap). Given the relevations of the last week, as well as further questions about the Attorney General's regard for the Constitution (but two months ago he said in testimony before the Senate, "There is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution", a statement the absurdity of which is plain to anyone who has ever read the document or, frankly, taken a sixth grade civics class), I believe that the House Judiciary Committee should begin to hold hearings on and consider the possibility of impeaching Alberto Gonzales. While there might not be sufficient votes in the Senate at this point to convict Gonzales of such charges (and I'd assume the Republicans would be able to scrounge up enough votes to keep Gonzales in his position), such a move would both begin to ensure that there is some accountability for the actions of this administration -- accountability that has been sorely lacking due to President Bush's reticence to fire his incompetent personnel -- and it would put Republicans on the record as defending someone whose actions have undermined the Constitution. And perhaps if the House does move to impeach Gonzales he will follow in the footsteps of Belknap, who resigned before the Senate had voted on whether or not to remove him from office.

by Jonathan Singer 2007-03-20 08:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Is Impeachment of Alberto Gonzales Possible?

If history is a guide, then a cabinet secretary can be impeached.

William Belknap, Grant's Secretary of War, was the only secretary to be impeached.

From Wikipedia:

He was impeached by a unanimous vote of the House of Representatives for allegedly having received money in return for post tradership appointments. Belknap immediately resigned. However, he was still tried by the United States Senate. The vote fell short of the two-thirds required for conviction. Allegedly, most of those who voted to acquit felt that Belknap's resignation removed their jurisdiction in the case.

by Randy G 2007-03-20 08:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Is Impeachment of Alberto Gonzales Possible?

Looks like I was just beaten to the POST button.

by Randy G 2007-03-20 08:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Is Impeachment of Alberto Gonzales Possible?

Almost certainly - he would probably be considered an "Officer of the United States," under Art. II, Sec. 4 of the Constitution, so that he would be subject to impeachment.  Who is and is not an "officer of the United States" is somewhat debatable, but it almost definitely describes Cabinet officials.  

by rfahey22 2007-03-20 08:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Is Impeachment of Alberto Gonzales Possible?

Of course officers of the United States ranked lower than the Vice President can be impeached, and the poster above was correct to cite Belknap. John Dean did a useful analysis of this topic December 15. http://writ.news.findlaw.com/dean/200612 15.html

by sunlight7 2007-03-20 08:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Is Impeachment of Alberto Gonzales Possible?

Dean made another important point in that article.  

Once impeached and convicted, Gonzales could be permanently barred from holding any public office, ever again, by a single additional vote in Congress.  

That makes his impeachment and conviction by the Congress extremely important.

We don't want to see Gonzales in a future administration.  And Dean shows us a way to prevent him and other Bush administration officials from returning in a future administration.

by greenwizard 2007-03-21 04:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Is Impeachment of Alberto Gonzales Possible?

Impeachments are very rare in American history, so it is hard to say how the Supreme Court (especially this Supreme Court) would rule on the impeachment of AG Gonzales--lacking, as they do, much precedent to rely upon.

The best guidance probably comes from Nixon v. United States.  In that case, federal Judge Walter Nixon (no relation to Tricky Dick) was impeached, convicted and removed from office for perjury before a grand jury.  Nixon challenged the procedure that the Senate used in trying his impeachment (most of the fact gathering was assigned to a committee, not to the full Senate, and Nixon claimed this was not a constitutionally permissible method of trying impeachments).

In its opinion, the Supreme Court said that Nixon's challenge was a "political question," meaning that it was one which could be resolved only by the political branches, without the Court stepping in.  Under the Court's reasoning, the power to determine the procedures used in trying impeachments was granted by the Constitution to the Senate, and the Court could not strip the Senate of this authority.

Nixon suggests that the Congress has very broad authority regarding impeachments.  It is probably not limitless--indeed several Justices concurred in Nixon to make this very point--but if the Supreme Court follows its precedents, it would likely not question the Congress' power to remove Alberto Gonzales.

This conclusion is bolstered by the Court's decision in Baker v. Carr.  Baker listed six types of cases which the Court would apply the political question doctrine to.  Among them are cases marked by "[t]he impossibility of a court's undertaking independent resolution without expressing lack of the respect due coordinate branches of government;" "[a]n unusual need for unquestioning adherence to a political decision already made;" and "[t]he potentiality of embarrassment from multifarious pronouncements by various departments on one question."  All three of which seem to apply here.

Imagine that the House impeached, and the Senate subsequently convicted AG Gonzales.  Imagine as well that, subsequent to this conviction, Gonzales' deputy declared himself acting AG, and began issuing orders which conflicted with Gonzales' policies.  Meanwhile, Gonzales, refusing to recognize the power of the Senate, declared that he was still the legitimate AG, and demanded that DOJ officials follow the old policies.  For obvious reasons, this "who is in charge" situation would be untenable.  It would raise a serious "potentiality of embarrassment" due to uncertainty of the validity of a decision already made.

For these reasons, a responsible court would almost certainly not adjudicate the constitutionality of a Gonzales impeachment.  We do not have a responsible Supreme Court, so they are difficult to predict, but the smart money is probably on them honoring the conviction.

by Ian 2007-03-20 08:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Is Impeachment of Alberto Gonzales Possible?

Well as a learned person I am afraid of saying anything definitive because it could interfere with my future job prospects. My c.v. and resume and available at the link below.

by DougWatts 2007-03-20 08:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Is Impeachment of Alberto Gonzales Possible?

P.S. I will say whatever you, the client, tells me to.

by DougWatts 2007-03-20 08:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Is Impeachment of Alberto Gonzales Possible?
I think the congress would rather he just go.  He is not a big enough fish to waste our money on impeachment.  Nor is he really worth the trouble.
I'd think they want the big ones.  I do think that the congress is trying to go the way of slowly going from the outside in.  Start at the edges and work their way towards the two.  Peeling layers off.
by vwcat 2007-03-20 08:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Is Impeachment of Alberto Gonzales Possible?

Can Congress impeach Gonzales?  Of course.  Impeachment can only be for "high crimes and misdemeanors" but the only body that defines what is and is not an impeachable offense is Congress.  There is no judicial review of impeachment/removal.  So if Congress wanted to impeach Gonzales, there's nothing anyone could do to stop them.

by Jim Treglio 2007-03-20 08:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Is Impeachment of Alberto Gonzales Possible?

Yes, Gonzalez is quite impeachable.  Art. II, sec. 4: "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 or misdemeanors."  Impeachment is mentioned in three different locations in the Constitution, easy to miss getting all of them on one sweep.

Gonzalez counts as a civil officer.

Judges are the only type of civil officer ever impeached with any sort of frequency, because impeachment is the only way, short of the grave, to remove them from office.  Presidents can also only be removed from office this one way, so three Presidents have either been impeached, or at least had impeachment imminent before he resigned.  I believe that we have only had one Cabinet officer ever impeached.  Cabinet officers can, of course, be removed by the President, who would normally do so long before they ever become so obnoxious to so many in Congress as to be under any risk of impeachment.  But we do not have a normal President just at the moment.  I don't think we've ever had a VP impeached, despite this being the only way to get rid of one, doubtless because none has so far been thought to be important enough to get rid of.  Again, we don't have a normal VP in this respect just at the moment either.  

by gtomkins 2007-03-20 08:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Is Impeachment of Alberto Gonzales Possible?

Let's not forget AG Daugherty and the Teapot Dome Scandal.

Daugherty was nearly impeached in 1923, and Sen Wheeler's investigation forced him to step down, as he was to be found guilty.

The fallout from the Daugherty disaster was that the Supreme Court reaffirmed Congressed Constitutional authority to compel testimony in the McGrain v. Daugherty case of 1927.

This scandal coupled with the things Gonzales has done while in office. Stopping investigations through coercion, replacements, promotions, etc. makes Teapot look like a tea party.

The real question is not can he be impeached. Which he can and will if the president continues is foot dragging. It's who will be his replacement.

In a just world it would be Fitzgerald, Comey or someone of their ethical and professional Character. Congress should indicate their pick to the white house. Wheeler had two appointees knocked down after Daugherty stepped down until a compromise candidate could be reached.

The Harding and Coolidge eras are an excellent analogue for the problems that we currently have.

by smacfarl 2007-03-20 09:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Is Impeachment of Alberto Gonzales Possible?

Indeed, I just finished rereading Only Yesterday, and the parallels are petrifying.

by Jay R 2007-03-20 10:43PM | 0 recs
Article II Section 4 Officers...

...should be on a short parliamentary leash.

If the President won't fire them, they should be impeached.

Much is made of these Officers serving 'at the pleasure of the President', but the origin of the expression is telling.

The phrase was originally used to refer to the King. Kings cannot be impeached, or removed at the next election by definition. And kings are two-fold creatures. There is the King-in-His-Person, and the King-in-Parliament. The Sovereign is the latter, the former is just some guy who won the sperm lottery. The King-in-His-Person is dispensable -- ask James II, ask Charles I.

Note that only the King-in-Parliament is the Sovereign, which is why the PM changes, regardless of what his or her personal relationship with the Sovereign is, when there is a change in the party controlling the Commons.

When our Constitution was written, that was the constitutional subtext for the framers -- it was the only national government with which most of them had any familiarity.

It is dubious to suggest that the Framers intended to craft a national executive even stronger than the one they were replacing, or a weaker executive.

Our King (President) and our Parliament (Congress) are similarly joined at the hip. And it's contrary to the spirit of the enterprise to expect that executive officers, once the advise-and-consent function of the Senate is executed, are never subject to the reach of the legislative branch again.

Article II, Section 4 powers are not used anything like enough, in my opinion, especially after a change in the composition of Congress.

by Davis X Machina 2007-03-20 09:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Is Impeachment of Alberto Gonzales Possible?

I wouldn't say Abu G is even a big fish any more.

Clearly what Bush is stonewalling over, are the emails that will demonstrate that the firing of the USAGs was planned inside the WH.

If he was smart, Bush would offer Abu G as a sacrificial lamb, to stop that latter investigation.  Imagine how quickly the stupid MSM would drop the story if he resigned.

But Bush may be stupid enough to keep this thing in the headlines.

by Taylor26 2007-03-21 01:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Impeachment of Alberto

I have another question.  If someone, maybe, for far-fetched example, Alberto Gonzales, lies to Congress during his confirmation hearings, before he has become a member of the Administration, should he be impeached or merely charged with perjury under the criminal law?

by drlimerick 2007-03-21 04:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Is Impeachment of Alberto Gonzales Possible?

They should impeach him for the simple reason that it removes Bush's most key ally in fending off the various criminal and congressional investigations gunning for him now.

Force Bush to put some relatively independent Republican in the job, one who has no personal loyalty to Bush and see it pay off as this person actually investigates the criminality of the administration.

People keep saying "gonzales isn't important" - Yes, the AG is important.  Think of the Saturday Night Massacre.  If the AG and DAG had not been honourable men, who refused to fire Cox like Nixon wanted, would that event have blown up in Nixon's face?

by scientician 2007-03-21 05:36AM | 0 recs
They do have the power, and they should use it

They do have the power to impeach Gonzales, and they should absolutely do it. Bush will try to draw this out, let it die down, and then let Gonzales resign. If things are really bad, he'll leak that Gonzales was "forced out".

But Pelosi should cut Bush off at the knees. Tomorrow, in time to get into the sunday papers, Pelosi should introduce articles of impeachment against Gonzales. This issue will divide Republicans, unite Democrats, and re-legitimize the notion of impeachment in a less political way than simply arguing for Bush's or Cheney's removal. She could schedule a vote very soon, as congress already has enough information to make the call, and you don't want it to look like a political witch-hunt -- just an execution.

Imagine how much of a lame duck he'll be after having congress and the media excoriate his administration, leaving him battered, bruised, and embarrassed -- or just bitter, paranoid, and crazier than he is now.

by msnook 2007-03-21 12:13PM | 0 recs
Re: They do have the power, and they should use it
Impeach him and see the fear in every administration official's eyes as other investigations proceed.
Plame leak.
War lies.
War financing.
etc.
by bmelz 2007-03-21 01:44PM | 0 recs
You read the what?

Isn't reading the C--------- a violation of the PATRIOT act?

I stand here a victim of the influence of Immanuel Goldstein, guilty on all counts.

by Tatarize 2007-03-21 12:54PM | 0 recs

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