I guess you can't call them a do-nothing Congress any more
from Barefoot Bum
House Judiciary Passes Article of Impeachment Against President Bush WASHINGTON – The first article of impeachment against President George W. Bush was passed by the House Judiciary Committee in an emergency special session late Saturday. The article appears to have been prompted by new evidence that the FBI had abused its power under the direction of the president, who had blocked further investigations into the matter. Each of the thirty nine members of the committee seemingly voted along party lines on the measure, which passed by a vote of 22-17.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) has issued a statement on the allegations being brought forth; though a full disclosure on the charges of "high crimes and misdemeanors" against the president will be made available to the public during a Monday press conference scheduled at 11AM EST. The charge is based on new information of an action taken by the President in July of last year to block a Justice Department investigation into warrantless surveillance, which the committee statement referred to as "an unprecedented move by White House to intervention with an investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility." The OPR was then forced to abandon its investigation as security clearances were refused by the president.
As the vote appears to have been timed to coincide with Congress's Easter recess over the next two weeks, committee members have failed to return calls requesting comment.
Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine found 48 violations of law during 2003-2005 in the bureau's use of National Security Letters (NSL) to acquire telephone, e-mail, and financial records of Americans and foreigners without court approval. Citing abuses to Patriot Act provisions, FISA statutes, and the Fourth Amendment, the document will charge President Bush with obstruction of justice pertaining to a Congressional investigation regarding the authorization of the domestic spying program.
A quote attributed to Committee Chairman Conyers in the press statement reads, "For 32 years the OPR had conducted highly sensitive investigations involving Executive Branch programs, and had not once been denied access to information classified at the highest levels of government." Chairman Conyers continued, "Recent testimony from FBI officials have led this committee to believe that illegal acts were in fact taking place for over two years as President Bush abused his power to obstruct an investigation into those very acts."
The Senate is currently in the midst of a showdown with the White House over executive privilege and access to cabinet members regarding testimony on the recent firings of eight United States Attorneys. Saturday's vote comes at a crucial juncture. Critical to that investigation is the inconsistency of previous statements made by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee following the Easter recess.
Criticizing the administration's use of executive privilege and describing the failure to uphold accountability as an abuse of power, Democrats speaking on condition of anonymity predict that an additional article may be put forth by the committee to warrant that Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice be removed from office. Following articles will be voted on by the House Judiciary Committee before they are debated on the House floor. The first article is expected to win a majority vote in the House, which would bring the charges against the president to the Senate.