The House Ethics Committee, in one of its last acts in a Republican controlled Congress, has dismissed the case against Congressman John Conyers after a three years investigation into the charge that he used taxpayer-paid staffers for campaigning and personal errands.
The case against Mr. Conyers was closed without punitive action or a letter of reproval from the Committee on Standards of Conduct, by the ethics panel, which is comprised of five Democrats and five Republicans
In a report issued just before Democrats take control of Congress on Thursday, the bipartisan committee said Rep. John Conyers of Michigan has acknowledged "'a lack of clarity'" in communications with aides about their duties Reuters
You want some clarity? Read below.
Why is it important?
Some of you will remember June 16, 2005 when Congressman Conyers covened a hearing on the Downing Street Minutes, which led to the issuing of the report "The Constitution in Crisis."
After its final revision in January of last year this report has been renamed "George W. Bush versus the U.S. Constitution: The Downing Street Memos and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Cover-ups in the Iraq War and Illegal Domestic Spying," Kinda says it all, don't it?
In the hours before that hearing there was a scramble to find a room available in the House Representatives. In an effort to sabotage the hearings Dennis Hastert assigned them a room in the basement, described as a "large closet".
In a further effort to sabotage the hearings, members of Congress were called out again and again to attend votes.
From then on, they became known as The Basement Hearings, and what was discussed there developed into the agenda of the House Judiciary Committee, now chaired by Congressman John Conyers.
In the media there were, on the day of the hearings, more than 80 news stories trying to impugn Congressman Conyers on some thin but nasty charges from a few disgruntled aides that he had used them as as chauffeurs and babysitters. These charges were taken out of the mothballs just for this occasion.... to try and undermine Congressman Conyers and disrupt the hearings. As of today, with the Ethics Committee's decision, those charges will not be resuscitated again. There's a new Congress convening and they're rolling up their shirtsleeves.... there's mighty work to be done, and Daily Kos can be active participants in that work.
Now many of you will remember June 16, 2005 as the day when members of Congress delivered to the White House Gates petitions for redress of grievances by the Bush administration in the illegal war on Iraq with the signatures of more than 500,000 American citizens.
I want you to look at these pictures and see the exhaustion, the courage and resolution in these people:
There were a plethora of stories trying to cast Congressman Conyers and the hearings' attending members as fools. The worst of these stories came from Dana Milbank of the Washington Post.
Democrats Play House To Rally Against the War
By Dana Milbank
Friday, June 17, 2005; Page A06
In the Capitol basement yesterday, long-suffering House Democrats took a trip to the land of make-believe.
They pretended a small conference room was the Judiciary Committee hearing room, draping white linens over folding tables to make them look like witness tables and bringing in cardboard name tags and extra flags to make the whole thing look official.
And don't miss this one:
Mocking the Downing Street Memo by Robert Parry; June 18, 2005
This is what the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee sounds like on the day when he delivered 500,000 signatures to the White House. Conyers And if you listen to this audio you will find your answers to the question "What's it going to take to impeach these bastards?"
Now lets look again at the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee answering charges levelled against him last May:
Conyers Responds To Criticism From Sunday Talk Shows
May 8th, 2006
Rep. John Conyers, Jr (D-Mich.) responded to comments made by Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) on ABC’s This Week that Conyers has participated in mock impeachment hearings of President Bush.
Funny, I don’t remember that hearing. I did organize a Democratic forum on the Downing Street Minutes, but that was not about impeachment, and the Republicans wouldn’t even let us have a room for it
Conyers also responded to Tim Russert’s question to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as to whether Conyers should remove a statement from his website calling for a bi-partisan committee to investigate pre-war intelligence and make recommendations for impeachment.
Perhaps Mr. Russert has forgotten, but I have been a Chairman before. For five years, from 1989 to 1994, I was the Chairman of the House Government Operations Committee, now called the Government Reform Committee. I have a record of trying to expose government waste, fraud and abuse.
That was back when Congress did something called "oversight." You know, in our tri-partite system of government, when Congress actually acted like a co-equal branch. The Republican Congress decided to be a rubber stamp for President Bush instead.
Perhaps, if we had a little oversight, we wouldn’t be mired in a war based on false pretenses in which we have lost thousands of our brave men and women in uniform and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis.
Perhaps we would not have had an energy policy drawn up in secret with oil company executives that has led gas prices of more than three dollars per gallon.
Perhaps, if we had a little oversight, we wouldn’t have a prescription drug plan written by the pharmaceutical companies, that prohibits the government from negotiating for lower prices with the same drug companies, and that no one really understands.
Perhaps, if we had a little oversight, we would know the extent to which our own government if spying on our phone calls, emails and other communications, contrary to the law of the land.
Oversight should not be a partisan undertaking. As we saw in the late 90’s, when oversight is used out of anger or spite, or to gain partisan advantage, the American people express their strong disapproval.
Personally, I have had enough partisanship for the last six years to last a lifetime and I think we need to bring the American people back together.
But we also need to serve their interests. Congressional oversight is part of that. It is a check and balance, designed to protect the American people from too much power being concentrated in too few hands.
If I become a Chairman again, I intend to push for oversight of this Administration. Our Constitutional system of government requires no less.
There's been a lot of time, space and energy spent on the issue of impeachment. There's been frustration and disappointment -- even a sense of betrayal -- when Conyers and Pelosi said in no uncertain terms "Impeachment is off the table."
Well, I want you to look at what is ON THE TABLE. From the Executive Summary of the Conyers' report, while holding in mind that some of the research for the more than 1,200 references in this report was contributed by Daily Kos members.
There is a prima facie case that these actions by the President, Vice-President and other members of the Bush Administration violated a number of federal laws, including:
(1) Committing a Fraud against the United States;
(2) Making False Statements to Congress;
(3) The War Powers Resolution;
(4) Misuse of Government Funds;
(5) federal laws and international treaties prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment;
(6) federal laws concerning retaliating against witnesses and other individuals; and
(7) federal laws and regulations concerning leaking and other misuse of intelligence.
In brief, we have found that there is substantial evidence the President and other high ranking members of the Bush Administration
- misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq;
- misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for such war;
- countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in Iraq;
- permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of their Administration; and
- approved domestic surveillance that is both illegal and unconstitutional.
As further detailed in the Report, there is evidence that these actions violate a number of federal laws, including:
- Making False Statements to Congress, for example, saying you have learned Iraq is attempting to buy uranium from Niger, when you have been warned by the CIA that this is not the case.
- The War Powers Resolution and Misuse of Government Funds, for example, redeploying troops and initiating bombing raids before receiving congressional authorization.
- Federal laws and international treaties prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, for example, ordering detainees to be ghosted and removed, and tolerating and laying the legal ground work for their torture and mistreatment.
- Federal laws concerning retaliating against witnesses and other individuals, for example, demoting Bunnatine Greenhouse, the chief contracting officer at the Army Corps of Engineers, because she exposed contracting abuses involving Halliburton.
- Federal requirements concerning leaking and other misuse of intelligence, for example, failing to enforce the executive order requiring disciplining those who leak classified information, whether intentional or not.
- Federal regulations and ethical requirements governing conflicts of interest, for example, then Attorney General John Aschcroft ’s being personally briefed on FBI interviews concerning possible misconduct by Karl Rove even though Mr. Rove had previously received nearly $750,000 in fees for political work on Mr. Ashcroft ’s campaigns
- Violating FISA and the Fourth Amendment, for example intercepting thousands ofcommunications "to or from any person within the United States, " without obtaining a warrant.
- The Stored Communications Act of 1986 and the Communications Act of 1934, for example, obtaining millions of U.S. customer telephone records without obtaining a subpoena or warrant, without customer consent, and outside of any applicable "emergency exceptions."
- The National Security Act, for example, failing to keep all Members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees "fully and currently informed " of intelligence activities, such as the warrantless surveillance programs.
With regard to NSA’s domestic surveillance programs, we have also found that members of the Bush Administration made a number of misleading statements regarding its operation and scope; the legal justifications proffered by the Bush
Administration are constitutionally destabilizing; there is little evidence the programs have been beneficial in combating terrorism and may have affirmatively placed
terrorism prosecutions at risk; and the programs appear to have designed and implemented in a manner designed to stifle legitimate concerns.
The Report rejects the frequent contention by the Bush Administration that their pre-war conduct has been reviewed and they have been exonerated. No entity has ever considered whether the Administration misled Americans about the decision to go to war. The Senate Intelligence Committee has not yet conducted a review of pre-war intelligence distortion and manipulation, while the presidentially appointed Silberman-Robb Commission Report specifically cautioned that intelligence manipulation "was not part of our inquiry."
There has also not been any independent independent review of the pattern of cover-ups and political retribution by the Bush Administration against its critics, other than the very narrow and still ongoing inquiry of Special Counsel Fitzgerald into the outing of Valerie Plame.
This, and more, is what's ON THE TABLE.
If you want to join in the effort to bring these issues to hearings I suggest you join the Congressional Committees Project.