Feb. 25, 2008
By Ken Krayeske • 1:45 PM EST
Congressman John Larson talks to a few supporters at the Arch Street Tavern Thursday, Feb. 21 in Hartford.
After talking to the third most powerful Democrat in the United States House of Representatives, Congressman John Larson, about impeachment for 15 minutes last week, I felt like banging my head against the wall.
To lessen my pain, I called attorney Steve Fournier, Hartford's main man on impeachment.
Thanks to a column by the Hartford Courant's Rick Green, Larson called Fournier and the two sat down for more than an hour a month back to discuss impeachment as the sole remedy for the lawlessness of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
I figured that Larson, when I corralled him at a fundraiser he threw for Jim Himes at Arch Street Tavern in Hartford, was the same Larson Fournier talked to in a Congressional office surrounded by aides.
But when Steve and I compared notes, we found reason to celebrate, as Larson seems to have taken baby steps towards holding the executive branch accountable for its many unconstitutional missteps.
Mind you, Larson the political persona is still miles from espousing outright impeachment. Nevertheless, his evolution towards a point of view of upholding the rule of law is worth documenting.
Fournier presented Larson with a dozen questions.
"I told him that I don't need you to tell me what these answers are," Fournier said. "I told him 'You have to answer them to your satisfaction, and when you do, they do add up to a duty.'"
The duty, of course, is to impeach. Larson welcomed Fournier, and indicated his willingness to talk impeachment.
On this matter, Larson sang the same risk-averse song to Fournier as he did with me: if the House of Representatives manages to pass articles of impeachment by simple majority, Larson worries that the 49 Republicans in the Senate will not vote towards the two-thirds majority necessary to convict Bush and Cheney.
"If impeachment doesn't pass the Senate, is he [Bush] exonerated?" Larson asked me.
Regardless, it is foolhardy to predict what a trier of fact might do, Fournier said.
"I spent an hour convincing him that regardless of the possibility that he will lose, he will alter the Constitution irrevocably if he refuses to take up the fight," Fournier said. "He was sympathetic, and he was evasive."
Larson's evasions centered around his alleged ignorance of legal principles and facts, Fournier said. That was largely my experience too.
With Fournier, Larson lacked sufficient knowledge to say if kidnapping and holding someone in prison without charges, like we are doing in Guantanamo Bay, is a high crime against the Constitution.
Larson deftly deflected my argument about Bush violating the U.N. Treaty and the principles of the Nuremburg Tribunal, enshrined in international law.
"He was following the rule of law in attacking Iraq. Congress gave him permission," Larson said. Larson voted against authorizing the President to use force in 2002.
"The question is did he abuse his power and authority?" Larson asked. "Did they level with Congress? They gave us the best information they had, that previous administrations had relied on as well."
Then I presented him with Bush's lying to Congress, like Bush did in 2003 when he proclaimed those 16 words – that Saddam Hussein had tried to procure uranium for Niger – was a high crime against the people.
And this is where Steve and I found a difference in Larson's responses.
"Without parsing this, we have to have the hearings and do the work. We have to have an investigation," Larson told me. In my notebook, I have Larson saying it another time, a different way: "We need to go through tedious, time consuming hearings."
A month ago, Larson told Fournier he thought there would be an investigation.
"He thought [Congressman John] Conyers [Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee] would have one," Fournier said. "But he wasn't on the record saying that we should have them. Now, it sounds like Larson is ready to investigate the President."
While Committee hearings don't equal acountability, Fournier was encouraged by Larson's commitment to asking the hard questions.
"That is a clear intention to be a Congressman and represent us for that point of view," Fournier said. "Now he has to go to his superiors and peers and tell them the same thing. I knew he was coming this way. Next thing he has to say is that I am satisfied crimes have been committed and you have to impeach."
The impeachment conclusion is inescapable, Fournier said, upon full review the facts of Bush's lawlessness. Additionally, impeachment, not censure, is the only remedy to fix the harm to the Constitution.
Now, the next step is for Larson to bring Conyers from Michigan to Connecticut to discuss the matter with the informed, vocal pro-impeachment contingent in Larson's First Congressional District.
After all, Larson told me: "There is no stronger advocate for accountability than Congressman John Conyers. Unlike the Republicans, we follow the rule of law."
Well, Congressman Larson, this is a first step, so let's take the next step and bring Conyers here to discuss how we move forward and return the rule of law to the White House. Committee hearings are not enough.