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GOP lawyer drafts Obama impeachment

For Fair Use Discussion and Educational Purposes

April 06, 2011
Posted by Ben Smith 05:15 PM
GOP lawyer drafts Obama impeachment

A prominent libertarian constitutional lawyer and civil libertarian has drafted an article of impeachment against President Obama over his attack on Libya, throwing down a legal gauntlet that could be picked up by some Congressional Republicans

Bruce Fein, a former Reagan administration official in the Department of Justice and chairman of American Freedom Agenda writes in his 15-page argument of Obama's course that "Barack Hussein Obama has mocked the rule of law, endangered the very existence of the Republic and the liberties of the people, and perpetrated an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor."

Fein is a small-government conservative who worked on the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and also called for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and his work doesn't represent the Republican Party line. But it comes as some Republicans on the Hill, led by Senator Rand Paul, object vociferously to Obama's decision to strike targets in Libya without Congressional authorization.

"He's been more bold than any other president," said Fein, who said Obama has failed to secure congressional approval for his military action in a much more brazen way than previous administrations.

"If he can wipe out the war powers authorization, why can't he wipe out Congress's authority to spend?" asked Fein. " If we're going to be a government of laws, and not descend into empire, this is Caesar crossing the Rubicon."

Fein said a number of Congressional offices have expressed interest in his proposal.

"They actually need to defend constitutional prerogatives," said Fein. "There's definitely been interest on the Hill. There's at least two dozen who have been open to the idea that this is a serious constitutional crisis."

Fein's articles of impeachment discuss the run-up to the Libya conflict and conclude, "In all of this, President Barack Obama has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States."

The article of impeachment and three subsections are after the jump.

(with Byron Tau)

ARTICLE OF IMPEACHMENT OF PRESIDENT BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA

RESOLVED, That Barack Hussein Obama, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, and that the following article of impeachment to be exhibited to the Senate:

ARTICLE OF IMPEACHMENT EXHIBITED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IN THE NAME OF ITSELF AND OF ALL OF THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AGAINST BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, IN MAINTENANCE AND SUPPORT OF ITS IMPEACHMENT AGAINST HIM FOR HIGH CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS IN USURPING THE EXCLUSIVE PREROGATIVE OF CONGRESS TO COMENCE WAR UNDER ARTICLE 1, SECTION 8, CLAUSE 11 OF THE CONSTITUTION.

ARTICLE I

In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has usurped the exclusive power of Congress to initiate war under Article I, section 8, clause 11 of the United States Constitution by unilaterally commencing war against the Republic of Libya on March 19, 2011, declaring that Congress is powerless to constrain his conduct of the war, and claiming authority in the future to commence war unilaterally to advance whatever he ordains is in the national interest. By so doing and declaring, Barack Hussein Obama has mocked the rule of law, endangered the very existence of the Republic and the liberties of the people, and perpetrated an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor as hereinafter elaborated.

I.
THE IMPEACHMENT POWER

1. Article II, Section IV of the United States Constitution provides: “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.”

2. According to James Madison’s Records of the Convention, 2:550; Madison, 8 Sept., Mr. George Mason objected to an initial proposal to confine impeachable offenses to treason or bribery:

Why is the provision restrained to Treason & bribery only? Treason as defined in the Constitution will not reach many great and dangerous offences. Hastings is not guilty of Treason. Attempts to subvert the Constitution may not be Treason as above defined--As bills of attainder which have saved the British Constitution are forbidden, it is the more necessary to extend: the power of impeachments.

3. Delegates to the Federal Convention voted overwhelmingly to include “high crimes and misdemeanors” in Article II, Section IV of the United States Constitution specifically to ensure that “attempts to subvert the Constitution” would fall within the universe of impeachable offences. Id.

4. Alexander Hamilton, a delegate to the Federal Convention, characterized impeachable offenses in Federalist 65 as, “offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or in other words, from the violation or abuse of some public trust. They are of a nature which with peculiar propriety may be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done to society itself.”

5. In 1974, the House Judiciary Committee voted three articles of impeachment against then President Richard M. Nixon for actions “subversive of constitutional government.”

6. Father of the Constitution, James Madison, observed that, “Of all the enemies of public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other…. War is the true nurse of executive aggrandizement.”

7. James Madison also instructed that “no nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

8. The exclusive congressional power to commence war under Article I, section VIII, clause XI of the Constitution is the pillar of the Republic and the greatest constitutional guarantor of individual liberty, transparency, and government frugality.

II.
THE “DECLARE WAR” CLAUSE

9. Article I, Section VIII, Clause XI of the United States Constitution provides: “The Congress shall have the power … To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;”

10. Article II, Section II, Clause I of the United States Constitution provides: “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.”

11. The authors of the United States Constitution manifestly intended Article I, Section VIII, Clause XI to fasten exclusive responsibility and authority on the Congress to decide whether to undertake offensive military action.

12. The authors of the United States Constitution believed that individual liberty and the Republic would be endangered by fighting too many wars, not too few.

13. The authors of the United States Constitution understood that to aggrandize power and to leave a historical legacy, the executive in all countries chronically inflates danger manifold to justify warfare.

14. John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the United States, in Federalist 4 noted:

bsolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people.

15. Alexander Hamilton explained in Federalist 69 that the president's Commander-in-Chief authority

…would be nominally the same with that of the King of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it. It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first general and admiral of the confederacy; while that of the British king extends to the declaring of war, and to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies; all which by the constitution under consideration would appertain to the Legislature.

16. In a written exchange with Alexander Hamilton under the pseudonym Helvidius, James Madison wrote:

In no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found, than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department. Beside the objection to such a mixture to heterogeneous powers, the trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man; not such as nature may offer as the prodigy of many centuries, but such as may be expected in the ordinary successions of magistracy. War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement. In war, a physical force is to be created; and it is the executive will, which is to direct it. In war, the public treasures are to be unlocked; and it is the executive hand which is to dispense them. In war, the honours and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed. It is in war, finally, that laurels are to be gathered, and it is the executive brow they are to encircle. The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honourable or venial love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace.

17. James Madison also wrote as Helvidius to Alexander Hamilton:

Those who are to conduct a war cannot in the nature of things, be proper or safe judges, whether a war ought to be commenced, continued, or concluded. They are barred from the latter functions by a great principle in free government, analogous to that which separates the sword from the purse, or the power of executing from the power of enacting laws.

18. On June 29, 1787, at the Federal Convention, James Madison explained that an executive crowned with war powers invites tyranny and the reduction of citizens to vassalage:

In time of actual war, great discretionary powers are constantly given to the Executive Magistrate. Constant apprehension of War, has the same tendency to render the head too large for the body. A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence agst. foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.

19. In a letter dated April 4, 1798, James Madison wrote to Thomas Jefferson:

The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, & most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care, vested the question of war in the Legislature. But the Doctrines lately advanced strike at the root of all these provisions, and will deposit the peace of the Country in that Department which the Constitution distrusts as most ready without cause to renounce it. For if the opinion of the President not the facts & proofs themselves are to sway the judgment of Congress, in declaring war, and if the President in the recess of Congress create a foreign mission, appoint the minister, & negociate a War Treaty, without the possibility of a check even from the Senate, untill the measures present alternatives overruling the freedom of its judgment; if again a Treaty when made obliges the Legislature to declare war contrary to its judgment, and in pursuance of the same doctrine, a law declaring war, imposes a like moral obligation, to grant the requisite supplies until it be formally repealed with the consent of the President & Senate, it is evident that the people are cheated out of the best ingredients in their Government, the safeguards of peace which is the greatest of their blessings.

20. During the Pennsylvania Convention to ratify the Constitution, James Wilson, a future Justice of the United States Supreme Court, observed:

This system will not hurry us into war; it is calculated to guard against it. It will not be in the power of a single man, or a single body of men, to involve us in such distress; for the important power of declaring war is vested in the legislature at large: this declaration must he made with the concurrence of the House of Representatives: from this circumstance we may draw a certain conclusion that nothing but our national interest can draw us into a war.

21. In 1793, President George Washington, who presided over the Federal Convention, wrote to South Carolina Governor William Moultrie in regards to a prospective counter-offensive against the American Indian Creek Nation: "The Constitution vests the power of declaring war with Congress, therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they have deliberated upon the subject, and authorized such a measure."

22. President Thomas Jefferson, who served as Secretary of State under President Washington, in a statement before Congress regarding Tripoli and the Barbary Pirates, deemed himself “unauthorized by the Constitution, without the sanction of Congress, to go beyond the line of defense." He amplified: "I communicate [to the Congress] all material information on this subject, that in the exercise of this important function confided by the Constitution to the Legislature exclusively their judgment may form itself on a knowledge and consideration of every circumstance of weight."

23. In a message to Congress in December, 1805 regarding potential military action to resolve a border dispute with Spain, President Thomas Jefferson acknowledged that "Congress alone is constitutionally invested with the power of changing our condition from peace to war, I have thought it my duty to await their authority for using force.” He requested Congressional authorization for offensive military action, even short of war, elaborating:

Formal war is not necessary—it is not probable it will follow; but the protection of our citizens, the spirit and honor of our country, require that force should be interposed to a certain degree. It will probably contribute to advance the object of peace.

But the course to be pursued will require the command of means which it belongs to Congress exclusively to yield or deny. To them I communicate every fact material for their information, and the documents necessary to enable them to judge for themselves. To their wisdom, then, I look for the course I am to pursue; and will pursue, with sincere zeal, that which they shall approve.

24. In his War Message to Congress on June 1, 1812, President James Madison reaffirmed that the shift in language from make to declare in Article I, Section VIII, Clause XI of the United States Constitution authorized at the Constitutional convention did not empower the Executive to involve the United States military in any action aside from defense against an overt attack. Although President Madison was convinced that Great Britain had undertaken acts of war against the United States, he nevertheless maintained that he could not respond with military force without congressional authorization. He proclaimed:

We behold, in fine, on the side of Great Britain, a state of war against the United States, and on the side of the United States a state of peace toward Great Britain.

Whether the United States shall continue passive under these progressive usurpations and these accumulating wrongs, or, opposing force to force in defense of their national rights, shall commit a just cause into the hands of the Almighty Disposer of Events, avoiding all connections which might entangle it in the contest or views of other powers, and preserving a constant readiness to concur in an honorable re-establishment of peace and friendship, is a solemn question which the Constitution wisely confides to the legislative department of the Government. In recommending it to their early deliberations I am happy in the assurance that the decision will be worthy the enlightened and patriotic councils of a virtuous, a free, and a powerful nation.

25. In his Records of the Convention, 2:318; Madison, 17 Aug., James Madison wrote that the power “To declare war” had been vested in the Congress in lieu of the power “To make war” to leave to the Executive “the power to repel sudden attacks.”

26. Mr. Elbridge Gerry “never expected to hear in a republic a motion to empower the Executive alone to declare war,” but still moved with Mr. Madison “to insert declare—in place of make” in Article I, Section VIII, Clause XI. Id.

27. Mr. George Mason was against “giving the power of war to the Executive, because not safely to be trusted with it; or to the Senate, because not so constructed as to be entitled to it. He was for clogging rather than facilitating war; but for facilitating peace.” Yet Mr. Mason “preferred declare to make.” Id.

28. Mr. Roger Sherman “thought [the proposal] stood very well. The Executive shd. be able to repel and not to commence war.” Id.

29. Delegates to the Federal Convention overwhelmingly approved the motion to insert “declare—in place of make,” to deny the Executive power to initiate military action, but to permit the Executive to repel sudden attacks unilaterally. Id.

30. Then Congressman Abraham Lincoln sermonized:

Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so, whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose — and you allow him to make war at pleasure…. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after you have given him so much as you propose. If, to-day, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada, to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, "I see no probability of the British invading us" but he will say to you "be silent; I see it, if you don't."

The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress, was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons. Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This, our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood.

NOTE: this article in its entirety is available at the link above. It was too long to post the complete script.