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Transcript: Congressman John Conyers, Jan 26 2006
Congressman John Conyers was on the show to talk about his hearings into activities that could rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors, including the Downing Street memos and warrantless wiretaps. He recently issued a report called "The Constitution in Crisis".
Thom Hartmann interview with congressman John Conyers, January 26 2006
[Thom Hartmann] Congressman John Conyers is with us. John Conyers of Michigan. Congressman Conyers, welcome to the Thom Hartmann program.
[John Conyers] Greetings and salutations. Great to be with you.
[Thom Hartmann] Thank you. It's always so wonderful to have you on our program, sir.
[Thom Hartmann] You are holding hearings, or have been holding hearings, on some of these issues that may end up being issues around impeachment, I understand, in the basement of the capital?
[John Conyers] It's quite possible that these are questions that could rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors in terms of the conduct of the president of the United States. And you know, it goes back, Thom, to the Downing Street memos hearing that I held in the basement as well.
[Thom Hartmann] Yeah.
[John Conyers] In which we got the clearest indication that a war policy, a war against Iraq was in the makings and they were in the process of conforming the facts to accommodate the policy. And that's pretty serious when you're told that by high officials in Washington and you are the chief of the intelligence unit for the British government.
[Thom Hartmann] Yes. Yeah, I would think so. Now, Richard Nixon went to his grave suggesting that article 2 of the articles of impeachment that were drafted against him, and I believe you were in congress at that time, were you not?
[John Conyers] I introduced the first impeachment articles against a sitting president in a hundred and fifty years.
[Thom Hartmann] Oh, my goodness!
[John Conyers] Well, Bella Abzug was on them.
[Thom Hartmann] Yep.
[John Conyers] Ron Dellums was on it, Shirley Chisholm.
[Thom Hartmann] Oh, some...
[John Conyers] William Fitz Ryan of New York was on it.
[Thom Hartmann] Now, Richard Nixon right up to his last days, here's his comment to Davod Frost, he said, [start of audio clip] Nixon: "Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal". [end of audio clip] When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal. This is the argument now that Gonzales and Bush are making about illegal wiretapping.
[John Conyers] Right. The president has conceded that if you don't understand how he operates you would think that this, that his domestic wiretapping without warrant is illegal because he has deemed, even though it's against the law, and even though we created the FISA law to accommodate domestic wire taps, even though there have only been four turned down in the course of the whole existence of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance courts, even though the head of the courts has resigned in disgust about this; he says, "Look, I reserve this to myself because I am the commander in chief. Well, he's the commander in chief of the military. He's not the commander in chief of secret intelligence.
[Thom Hartmann] Or of the United States.
[John Conyers] Or of the United States. So what we have here, to me, and I think the reason that they are tackling it with such aggressiveness, is that we're not now talking about constitutional niceties, as important as they are; that this is a tripartite government. What we're doing now is telling people that your phone could be tapped by the president of the United States' direction. Anybody, everybody. No exclusions. And he says that, regardless of what the law says on this, he is the last word. Precisely what Nixon, as you point out, said all the way to his grave.
[Thom Hartmann] We're talking with congressman John Conyers of Michigan. Congressman Conyers, the reverend Moon owns the Washington Times; the newspaper there in D.C. which is the only newspaper George W. Bush says he'll read. The reverend Moon also owns Insight magazine which has just run an article suggesting that the hearings that Arlen Specter is going to hold, starting in February, about the FISA Act and the Bush administration, are actually being perceived by people inside the White House as the prelude to an impeachment hearing. In fact, they write in Insight magazine, "Sources said the probe to determine whether the president violated the war will include Republicans, but that they may not be aware that they could be helping to lay the ground work for a Democratic impeachment campaign against Mr. Bush". But apparently the folks in the White House are taking this very seriously.
[John Conyers] The Washington Times said that?
[Thom Hartmann] No, this is Insight Magazine, which is also owned by Reverend Moon. This is, insightmag.com is their web site. And they're, you know, basically another arm of the Moon empire.
[John Conyers] Sure.
[Thom Hartmann] The Moon political empire, shall we say. And I'm wondering if you think that it is conceivable that Arlen Specter could get his back up enough about this that he would take on George W. Bush even in the absence of a Democratic majority in the House or Senate?
[John Conyers] Well, the fact that I probably don't think that he will, he could still be unwittingly moving us toward these considerations of whether a high crime or misdemeanor has occurred. You see, nobody has been talking about the 'I' word. It's been dealt with very secretly off the record. Nobody wanted to say anything. But I was stunned a couple weeks ago when I heard, I read in the paper that Senator Specter said, "Well, I don't think that some particular thing under discussion with the news media would lead to impeachment". In other words, let's face it, Thom, it's in the back of everybody's mind.
[Thom Hartmann] Yeah.
[John Conyers] No matter whether you're a Conservative or a Liberal or something in between.
[Thom Hartmann] Or a member of the White House staff, apparently.
[John Conyers] Yes, it's a, and so, now, my briefing, the hearings, the ad hoc hearings that I held only last Friday, seems like longer than that, the ones in which I brought in some fabulous experts and law professors and the American Civil Liberties Union Washington director. And then, of course, a victim in Florida; a senior citizen who was in a very innocent organization that found out he was being wiretapped. The discussion was so brilliant and so insightful that you can't get this out of your mind. And regular discussions among people in the Congress, people are beginning to say, "You know, if the president started a secret war, that's probably impeachable." People are beginning to say, "If the president has been spying on people contrary to the Supreme Court interpretations, the statutory provisions, not only of FISA, but the powers we gave him to, additional military powers to, go into Afghanistan..." There was nobody that ever thought for a second that there were, that they were giving him a license to wiretap or surveil Americans inside the United States. So it's all this constant barrage of misstatements and mistruths are beginning to catch up with him. We've got, we're linked, my web page is linked to Henry Waxman's web page which has brought forward a very interesting study. The president has made 57 misstatements, falsehoods or exaggerations about the war in Iraq and the only person, the next person closest to him is the Vice President of the United States, who's made 51.
[Thom Hartmann] Holy cow.
[John Conyers] Now, we've got a problem, here. And the problem is that we don't know what the truth of the matter is 'cause they've never responded to us, to the four hundred, five hundred and forty thousand citizens who joined us asking the president, "please answer some simple questions about the Downing Street memo hearings". And so, what we're saying is that we've got two things to do. One: let's start a select committee like Sam Ervin's, House Resolution 535 [635? - ed.], in which we set up a committee; not going to a regular committee where they've got the numbers stacked against us, but evenly - even number of D's, an even number of R's - the vice chairman would be a Democrat, they'd be named by Pelosi and Speaker Hastert would name the Republican. But the vice chairman would have subpoena power as well as the chairman. And then let's have a hearing where we could subpoena and the documents and the people that we need to put flesh on to this two hundred and thirty seven page report that I called "The Constitution in Crisis" [3.8 MB pdf - ed.] that these gentlemen have brought on.
[Thom Hartmann] Yeah. This is marvelous, what you're doing. Congressman John Conyers. Congressman Conyers, we have less than a minute left. I am wondering, what can our listeners do to support you? What is your is your web site? It's johnconyers.com, right?
[John Conyers] Right, www.johnconyers.com .
[Thom Hartmann] And should we be calling our members of congress and saying support Congressman Conyers, or ...?
[John Conyers] Well, that's... Thom, this is just like the civil rights movement and any Vietnam movement. This has got to be a people's movement.
[Thom Hartmann] There you go. OK. Congressman John Conyers, johnconyers.com the web site, check it out. Congressman Conyers, thanks so much for being with us today.
[John Conyers] I'd like to bring some more information to you next week.
[Thom Hartmann] That would be wonderful! We'll set it up.
[John Conyers] Thank you.
[Thom Hartmann] I'll look forward to it. Thank you so much sir for being with us.