Transcript: Congressman Jay Inslee (impeachment v. indictment), Jul 31 2007
Congressman Jay Inslee represents the first district of Washington State. They will be introducing a resolution that would require the Judiciary Committee to conduct an investigation to determine if articles of impeachment should be filed against Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Thom Hartmann interviews Jay Inslee 31 July 2007
[Thom]: Congressman Jay Inslee is with us. He represents the first district of Washington State... and Congressman Inslee, welcome to the program.
[Inslee]: You bet, thanks for having me.
[Thom]: Great to have you with us. You are introducing a resolution today, directed at the House Judiciary Committee. You want to share the details with us?
[Inslee]: Yeah. We will be introducing a resolution that would require the Judiciary Committee to conduct an investigation to determine if articles of impeachment should be filed against Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The original cosponsors pretty much are all people like myself who have served as prosecuting attorneys, and we all know how important it is to maintain the integrity of the judicial system, and believe that right now we've had a substantial degradation of people's trust because of the multiple acts of malfeasance by this attorney general.
[Thom]: For example?
[Inslee]: Well, I think there are three, there are many acts but they fall into three broad categories.
First, it is indefensible for an attorney general to have allowed the firing of eight US attorneys because they would not do the political bidding of the White House. The worst, the deadliest thing to democracy is to allow the politicization of the justice system, and it is very clear that that went on. John McKay a very real respected guy up in Seattle, appointed by a Republican, doing a great job, he's fired after he refuses to pursue a bogus voter fraud investigation that the Republican operatives wanted him to pursue, and that's just indefensible.
Second, there have been indefensible multiple instances where the attorney general has allowed the violation of our right to privacy and I think that's become clear and the testimony is, most recently from the former director of the FBI.
And third, we have had these multiple occasions that are really stunning in their boldness of consciously not being straight with the US Congress, and by extension the American people. I've never seen a witness who has so repeatedly come to Congress and failed to tell the story truthfully. And so, any of those singularly would be appropriate for this, what I consider the last resort, which is impeachment, but if the president will not do his job, we will do ours. And this is our responsibility.
[Thom]: Congressman Jay Inslee, what is the process here? You introduce a resolution for impeachment, you have some cosponsors, if you want to go through the list - I don't have the list right in front of me here - and then what happens?
[Inslee]: Well, we will introduce this today. We hopefully, at one point, we get to the floor, have it passed, have the Judiciary Committee conduct the investigation. It would then come back to theHouse for a vote on the resolution of impeachment. If there are 218 votes it would then go to the Senate for trial. And in the Senate the trial is conducted in, to actually remove the individual from office. It takes two thirds of those voting to pass it. This has happened at least once in American history.
One thing I should say up front; many people did not know that the constitution does call for the impeachment of all civil officers who are, who violate their obligation and are involved in a high crime or misdemeanor that clearly includes the US Attorney General. This is a case where I think impeachment is something you ought to move very cautiously. I think it ought to be used very sparingly and I think it ought to be a matter of last resort. But with the continued corruption that has gone on of this system, of the refusal to shoot straight with the American people and the stonewalling by the Administration to prevent us from getting to the truth, I think it is our only tool in our toolbox of democracy to be able to protect the integrity of the judicial system, and is a thing we have to do.
[Thom]: Now four members of the US Senate have asked the US Solicitor General, the number four official in the Justice Department whose, I believe his main job really is to argue cases on behalf of the US government before the Supreme Court, but they've asked him to look into or to appoint a prosecutor, an investigator, for possible prosecution of Alberto Gonzales, the Attorney General, for these same issues that you're raising here. Why go through the impeachment venue rather than the prosecutorial venue? You're a prosecutor, a former prosecutor.
[Inslee]: Right. Well, it doesn't, potentially two reasons. One, I'm not so much concerned about the individual fate of this person; I'm concerned about democracy. and not having him being in a position to be able to cause us problems. And he could actually continue to serve the president's pleasure even if he was convicted of perjury. The president could just continue to keep him hired, or he could pardon him as he did with Scooter Libby. So even a perjury conviction would not necessarily solve this problem and impeachment is the only way to do it. A president could pardon this individual for the criminal charge of perjury; he cannot pardon him when he is impeached. The constitution is very clear on this. It says that if there is an impeachment vote and a conviction in the Senate, the president cannot pardon that individual; they are removed from their civil office and the country moves on. And I think that is the fullest, fairest, and really only complete relief available to democracy, fairness, and one we have to have.
[Thom]: And what sort of a response are you getting from your colleagues in the House of Representatives? Congressman Inslee?
[Inslee]: Well, we just started this, and we wanted to start this with a small select group. We started with prosecutors. We think we either have 6 or 7 prosecutors - people who have served as judges or prosecutors - and we wanted to start with this group. And the reason I say that is that by our history, we are people who understand how perverse the judicial system can become if it becomes infected with partisan politics. We've seen it first hand when you have stood up in front of a jury as I have and ask people to be sent to jail, you understand how powerful that position is. And once it becomes infected with partisanship, it's very, very dangerous. And I think that's why people around the country - independents, Democrats and Republicans - are outraged by what went on here. And I can tell you from my community, I've got as many Republicans mad about the firing of John McKay as anybody else.
[Thom]: That's interesting. Congressman Jay Inslee, .... he's representing Washington State's first district and representing it very, very well. Congressman Inslee, thanks so much for being with us.
[Inslee]: Thanks, Thom. Take care.
[Thom]: Good talking with you.