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I am not a lawyer, nor a law student, nor a constitutional scholar. I am a citizen of the United States of America and thus should have some interest in the government that has been elected.


The year is 1974. Watergate. I doubt that most people on E2 are familiar with Watergate beyond what was read in the Recent American History class in high school, and those that are, few of them were there and aware of of the issues at the time (I was turning one in '74).

Nixon was impeached because...

In disregard of the rule of law, he knowingly misused the executive power by interfering with agencies of the executive branch, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Criminal Division, and the Office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force, of the Department of Justice, and the Central Intelligence Agency, in violation of his duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.
(item #5 from Article 2 of the Articles of Impeachment for Richard Nixon)

Since Watergate, all presidents have been put on notice that the manipulation or misuse of any agency of the executive branch is considered a serious abuse of presidential power. Nixon claimed that his use of the agency was in the interest of "national security". The manipulation of national security intelligence data is considered by many a "high crime" under the Constitution's impeachment clause and furthermore violates federal criminal law (anti-conspiracy which states that it is a felony "to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose.").

And so, we come to the statement made by Paul Wolfowitz -

"For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction (as justification for invading Iraq) because it was the one reason everyone could agree on."

Paul Wolfowitz
Vanity Fair interview
May 28, 2003

Was intelligence information manipulated to make this argument seem compelling to the people of the United States and the world? At this point, it would be silly for me, or anyone without concrete information (I certainly don't have it) to say it is so one way or the other. However, it is important that this be looked at and investigated with even more diligence than was spent examining dresses and cigars with past administrations.

The question of what is an impeachable offense is one that is open to interpretation. The "High Crime and misdemeanor" language which is so often quoted is in Article II, Section 4:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.
Thus, if the president was to be impeached for treason, bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors (accused - impeachment does not mean removal from office) and convicted by the Senate of that, then he may be removed from office. It is generally considered that perjury (lying under oath) to be a high crime (for Clinton - the articles drawn up included: "willfully committing perjury by providing false and misleading testimony to the grand jury in relation to his relationship with an employee" -- do note that the impeachment fell short of the 2/3 vote necessary to convict him).

The "High Crimes and Misdemeanors" has three general sets of definitions that are tentatively agreed upon. No one knows exactly what the original intent of the Founding Fathers meant when they wrote "High Crimes and Misdemeanors", however this was not intended as a catch-all for removal public officials.

  1. Serious crime that breaks the law
  2. Abuse of office
  3. Abuse of the public trust
These are not set in stone, but only some guidelines that some scholars have tried to set down (see the UIC document listed below). Nixon abused the office and public trust. Clinton abused the public trust. The question is, has George W. Bush abused the office or the public trust?

Do realize, that historically, more than 60 impeachment charges have been brought up against presidents and judges including:

Only Clinton and Andrew Johnson had the impeachment approved against them; Nixon resigned before the house voted on impeachment (the articles of impeachment were drafted as can be seen above) and thus was not impeached (though it is fairly certain that he would have been and furthermore convicted).