Friday, July 6, 2007

Amnesty and Obstruction of Justice

There is some good news to come out of the Scooter Libby sentence commutation. We may have finally gotten the criminal act we need to impeach George W Bush!

There is some bad news too. To find the historical basis for the bad news, you'll have to follow me below the fold.

First, I just want to say that there are way too many juicy frames out there to use in connection with the Libby sentence commutation. My particular favorite is to refer to the commutation of Libby's sentence as amnesty. This then plays into all sorts of other possibilities. For example, all those R candidates who trashed the immigration bill as amnesty could be in for a very hard time. That is if it turns out they were in favor of amnesty for Libby. Can't you just see it now:
Fred Thompson (or fill in the name of you not favorite R candidate here) was against amnesty before he was for it.
There is going to be way too much fun to be had with that.

The far more serious frame though is the obstruction of justice frame. This frame could just be our smoking gun for impeachment. Here's how this goes. Scooter Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice for lying in the Plamegate investigation. Technically by continuing to refuse to tell the truth, he is participating in an ongoing obstruction of justice. By commuting Libby's sentence, presumably as a quid pro quo for Libby's continued refusal to tell the truth, Bush has actively participated in the obstruction of justice. In other words, a cover up. Remember, it was not the break in at the Watergate complex that did Richard Nixon in, it was the cover up.

Here is a further clarification on the obstruction of justice frame. It is in fact totally within the power of the President to use the clemency powers granted by the constitution as the President shall see fit to do. However, if that power is used in furtherance of a crime (the obstruction of justice), that becomes an abuse of power.

The first Article of Impeachment against Nixon reads in part:
in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice
So that's the good news.

Now here is the bad news. The Watergate break in occurred June 17, 1972. Nixon resigned August 8, 1974. That is a span of 782 days. Between today, July 6, 2007 and January 20, 2009, there are only 564 days. Is that enough time to conduct an impeacment inquiry in the House and a trial in the Senate? Because, I do not think that George W. Bush will pull a Nixon and resign. And remember, Nixon resigned upon the vote out of the House Judiciary Committee adoptoing articles of impeachment. He did not even go through an impeachment debate in the full House, much less a trial in the Senate.

Now, there is a bright side to this. It was on July 13, 1973 that the existance of Nixon's White House taping system was made public. This led to the discovery of the "smoking gun" tape that gave the answer to the famous question, "What did the President know, and when did he know it?" The span between that date and Nixon's resignation was only 391 days. So, by tht measure, there may be enough time.

Now for the really strange part. The number of days between the day Bill Clinton was deposed in the Paula Jones case (January 17, 1998), and the day he was acquitted in the Senate (February 12, 1999), was 391 days.

Maybe that means something.

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