Steve G.

Netroots Nation blogger asks Barr about whether Clinton impeachment stopped Congress from impeaching Bush

In Libertarian on July 20, 2008 at 5:25 pm

The following is from dday at Hullabaloo.

Transcript (provided by interviewing blogger):

Me: Rep. Barr, do you believe the impeachment of President Clinton was a good deterrent to the expansion of executive power and the establishment of the rule of law for the executive branch?

Barr: (chuckling) Good Lord no!

Me: So do you regret your role in the impeachment of President Clinton as House manager?

Barr: No, having public officials adhere to and be answerable to the rule of law is very, very important. What distresses me greatly is that Congress has not done, in the case of this President, what they should have done. And that is to inquire into what this Administration has done with regard to breaking the laws, on the electronic surveillance of people without warrants, the improper use of US Attorneys, etc.

Me: Would you have endorsed the impeachment articles that were referred to the House Judiciary Committee last week?

Barr: I’m testifying this Thursday before the House on some of these issues, not in the context of impeachment, but in the context of the rule of law and the separation of powers. So we will be getting into some of these things. But I think it would make no sense at this point to do impeachment–

Me: At what point would it have made sense? What year would it have made sense?

Barr: You’re not going to let me answer a question!

Me: I’m sorry, I’m just trying to follow up.

Barr: Go ahead, ask your question.

Me: Well, you’re talking about a timeline, that it wouldn’t make sense 6 months before the end of the President’s term to begin an impeachment inquiry…

Barr: We’re getting into the heart of a Presidential campaign. Anything that Congress would do at this point would be seen as totally political, and probably from their standpoint be counter-productive, because the other side would rally around the President, and possibly hurt the other side in the election.

Me: I have one final question. Do you feel that the impeachment of President Clinton, in effect, poisoned the well of the practice of impeachment, and always made it a political act, so that the current executive can always count on the fact that it would be seen as political to call for accountability in this fashion?

Barr: Impeachment is always going to be somewhat political, you are never going to get away from that. One of the things that I learned, and what I wrote about in my book, is that when I filed in November of 1997, the very first inquiry of impeachment, none of us knew anything about Monica Lewinsky. That didn’t come up until three or four months later. The basis of which I believed it was necessary and appropriate had nothing to do with that, it had to do with national security matters, improper campaign donations from foreign sources and so forth. But even had we moved in that direction, the Republicans didn’t want to, that would have been seen as political. You’re never going to get away from that. That’s why it’s so important in any impeachment to lay your groundwork, marshal your evidence, have those Congressional hearings first, rather than reaching your conclusion first.

  1. Has Barr ever been asked, and directly answered, the question, “Do you believe George W. Bush merits impeachment and/or removal from office?” That’s different from whether impeachment makes political sense. I don’t mean this to be a leading question; I’m genuinely curious if Barr is on the record on the merits of impeachment.

  2. I know Root scoffs at the though of impeaching a republican. Barr is a little smarter than Root though, and can sometimes keep his trap shut.

  3. Barr (and Paul’s) constitutional and legal adviser, internationally known constitutional scholar Bruce Fein, is on record calling for the impeachment of Bush, already more than a year ago. They both serve together on AFA also.

    It is interesting that there is a GOP congressional candidate in NC – who has won his primary – Dr. Carl Mumpower http://www.mumpower08.com that is openly calling for the impeachment of Bush (e.g. going further than Ron Paul), but for very different reasons than most are calling: for Bush’s immigration policy and failure to secure the border. Life is never always boring🙂

  4. Another interview with Barr at Netroots:

  5. Why does Barr keep on stuttering in the interview?

  6. Question about Wicca in the military:

  7. Has Barr ever been asked, and directly answered, the question, “Do you believe George W. Bush merits impeachment and/or removal from office?” That’s different from whether impeachment makes political sense. I don’t mean this to be a leading question; I’m genuinely curious if Barr is on the record on the merits of impeachment.

    Yes. I asked him this 4/20/08 in Birmingham, Alabama, in front of dozens of witnesses. I would paraphrase his answer thus:

    Bush has done more to warrant impeachment and actual removal (btw he added that part without prompting from me) than Clinton ever did. However, Barr also said it did not make political sense to do it this late.

    I disagree – I think it would have been a huge PR coup for the man most closely identified with, and best known for the Clinton impeachment, and the party which made hey of being the first to publicly go on the record in favor of impeaching Clinton (the LP), to publicly stand for impeaching the Bush crime family. Unfortunately, it is not to be.

    At this point, if I get the chance, I would like to ask Barr if he would direct his (hypothetical) justice department to look into a civilian criminal trial for Bush and members of his gang, and whether he would preclude any pardon for Bush or members of his regime.

  8. Barr on impeachment and more in the Austin American Statesman:
    http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/07/20/0720barr.html

    Just FYI, I was in the audience at the event reported on in the story.

  9. Paulie: I understand what you mean. Unlike the Clinton years, Barr is not in congress now and his responsibility is to campaign for the LP, and not spend all his time on a case to impeach Bush. It is congress’s responsibility. you have to ask John Conyers, who is resisting it, perhaps because his wife could be involved in bribery and he is afraid such revelations may come out. Also, you would have to impeach BOTH Bush and Cheney, because if you impeach only Bush, Cheney becomes president. Do you want to have that?

  10. Impeach the whole Bush gang.

  11. Why can’t Bush simply be indicted? Impeachment, after all, applies only for removal from office, but a look at the Constitution indicates that doesn’t let him off the hook for criminal charges either. (Artilce 1, Section 3, last Clause)

    So where’s a federal grand jury when you need one?

  12. All the interpretation of the Constitution that I’ve seen says that you can’t indict / arrest a sitting president or member of congress (while Congress is in session) – the argument being that this is to prevent someone from tampering with the political process by hitting opponents w/ trumped up or questionable charges in order to prevent them from doing their jobs.

    Once they are OUT of office, they are quite eminently indictable, and the statute of limitations wouldn’t be ticking while they were in office.

    This is why Nixon was named as an “Unindicted Co-Conspirator” during the grand jury investigations into Watergate – he could NOT be charged while still in office. Once out of office, whether by expiration of term, impeachment or resignation he was fair game, which is why he needed the pardon from Ford (and why many still think there was a quid pro quo when Ford was given the VP slot that he would give the pardon.) I still think the pardon is one of the biggest reasons Ford lost. I know it was my first Presidential election, and I voted for Carter specifically because of the Pardon issue…

    ART

  13. Art, I disagree. Impeachment is only set up for removal from office and does not address criminal charges. The President is still a citizen and still subject to all jurisdictions. If a President cannot be indicted while in office, then he is above the law, which we know is bullshit. Nixon was named as an “undicted co-conspirator” during watergate not becasue of his office, but because of the grand jury’s decision to not indict at that time, which is why Ford pardoned him anyway to cover all bases.

    The idea that a President would be limited to impeachment for a violent crime or treason is laughable. He can certainly be indicted, tried as a citizen, and convicted while in office. The same is true for all Congressmen, Senators, and state-level offices (ask Don Siegelman). And if convicted of afleony while sitting in office, then that is clear grounds for impeachment anyway.

    Impeachment and Indictment for crimes are two different things, and even the Constitution’s plain langauge points that out.

  14. Yes and no Mike… It’s a matter of sequencing. You can’t indict WHILE the person is in office and / or Congress is in session… This does NOT mean you can’t indict, for a given crime, just that you can’t do it during that time frame. As soon as they leave office, they CAN be indicted for anything they did before, during or after their time in office.

    Impeachement is essentially an accelerated method of removing from office, but as you correctly state, it has nothing to do with civil or criminal indictments.

    There is NO immunity, simply a temporary postponement of vulnerability while actually serving – since the president is “on duty” 24/7 for the duration of the term, he gets a full temporary immunity. Congresscritters only get it during the time Congress is in session, or while traveling to and from a session. – At least that was the way the founders intended, when Congress was only in session for short periods of time – Now that they are almost always nominally in session, it amounts to duration of the term…

    As I said before, the theory (and I think it’s a good one) is that the postponement ensures that one view can’t be forced through by filing charges against it’s opponents in order to prevent them from being present. – That this can be abused I don’t argue, there are tons of rumours about Teddy Kennedy getting popped regularly for DWI down on the Cape, but never being busted because the Senate was technically in session. (Not to mention his little swim w/ MJ Kopeckne (sp?))

    By postponing the arrest until after the person is out of office, they in theory don’t have to let it stop them from serving, unless the offense is so gross that his colleagues decide to throw him out early via impeachment.

    ART

  15. […] article at LFV about Barr at the Netroots conference has the transcript of a Netroots Nation blogger asking Barr […]

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