Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) is urging the House Judiciary Committee to begin impeachment hearings against Vice President Dick Cheney, despite opposition from House Democratic leaders.
Wexler, who first gained national attention for defending former President Bill Clinton during his impeachment in 1998, said Cheney has to be ousted in order to restore the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches, which in his view, has been eroded by an ever-expanding claim of authority under Cheney and President Bush.
"There's a litany of issues that need to be heard," Wexler said. "This administration has abused the power of executive privilege. This administration has completely avoided testifying before Congress on any one of a host of six, seven, eight issues.
“Whether we are talking about the manipulation of intelligence on Iraq,” he went on, “whether we are talking about the outing of a covert CIA agent, whether we're talking about the illegal use of torture, whether we're talking about the potentially unlawful firing of U.S. prosecutors - on all of these issues, the administration has thus far successfully used the power of executive privilege."
But impeachment hearings would be different, Wexler said, since the White House could not raise a privilege claim in order to avoid answering questions from lawmakers.
"In an impeachment hearing, the administration does not have the power of executive privilege," Wexler said, noting that the secret tapes that helped bring down President Richard Nixon did not surface until the House Judiciary Committee began impeachment hearings.
The House voted on Nov. 6 on a resolution by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) to bring articles of impeachment against Cheney for pushing for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, repeatedly suggesting that there ties between al Qaeda and the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and advocating military action to overthrow Iran.
When Republicans, in a bid to embarrass House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders, voted for the measure, the House was thrown into a brief deadlock. The measure was eventually approved and sent to the Judiciary Committee, where Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) has declined to take action, despite pressure from Wexler and liberal activists outside Congress.